Through research on living and preserved plants, botanists are learning more about how flora has responded to climate change over the past centuries. (USDA photo by Preston Keres) For many, the coming months promise to be even hotter than last year. But global warming is interrupting more than fun summer plans. It also affects plants. “Climate change is affecting plants in many different ways —where they can live, when they flower, and even changes in leaf shape,” said Gary Krupnick , a botanist in the Department of Botany ’s plant conservation unit at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History . By studying living plants and their leafy predecessors, scientists like Krupnick can see how plants have adapted to environmental fluctuation over the last century. Their research finds its roots in the United States National Herbarium ‘s 5 million plant specimens. “All of these specimens come with a place where and a time when they were collected. We are using that information to chart how species’ appearances and distributions have changed,” said Krupnick. Fertile ground for research Although founded in 1848, the herbarium houses plants collected from centuries ago to today. Most of these specimens have been pressed and placed […]

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