Story by Yesenia Gonzalez • Photo by Toni Ross
Bare tree branches, a crackling fireplace and gently falling snow evoke an image of a chilly winter’s day. A telltale sign preceding the frigid months is the fallen leaves strewn about campus. The winter weather brings changes to plant life. Dr. Adjoa Ahedor, Rose State professor of biological sciences, described some of the transformations that occur in plants during winter.
She explained that a plant pigment called phytochrome helps plants perceive changes in the environment. Acting as an internal clock, the ratio of active and inactive levels of photochrome affects how the plants respond to the daylight changes during winter. Oklahoma’s dynamic winter weather patterns can be difficult to predict. Plants native to an area know not to bloom even if the temperature suddenly increases for a period of time during the winter. However, non-native plants are
not assimilated with Oklahoma’s weather and can start blooming prematurely.
Ahedor further explained that plants slow their metabolism as they prepare for a period of dormancy. As plants shut
down their mechanisms, the visual evidence is the scarlet-colored leaves crunching underneath the feet of students rushing to classes across campus.
“If the cold is prolonged and goes close to spring, it may delay spring growth,” Ahedor said.
Oklahoma is no stranger to drastic weather changes. Rose State’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Coordinator Steve Carano said this year’s winter will not be as warm or as dry as last year’s. A leading factor in Oklahoma’s dynamic weather patterns is its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, which is where a lot of moisture comes from.
Until the green season in April and May, wildfires remain a concern as winter progresses because of the lack of moisture in the air. As for spring weather, Carano explained that weather patterns maintain natural cycles, and winter weather does not necessarily dictate what the weather will be like in the next season. Distinct environmental factors are occurring, causing the color changes in the leaves surrounding the Rose State campus. Nature is at play in the background of everyday life, affecting weather and everything around it in seemingly subtle but intricate ways.
As Carano put it, “Mother nature will humble you if you are not humbled.”