Global warming revives a plant that has not been breeding for 60 million years

3 min


On the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, plants called cycas revoluta have produced male and female organs outdoors. Unthinkable a few years ago at such a latitude.

The cycas revoluta breeds normally in much more Mediterranean, almost tropical latitudes. © AFP / HorizonFeatures / Leemage

An additional consequence of climate change and global warming. On the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England, a tropical plant produced for the first time for 60 million years outdoors male and female organs. It is about two cycas revoluta: a primitive species of plant which abounded 280 million years ago, at the time of the Jurassic era.

“Twenty years ago, we started growing cycas for an experiment,” says Chris Kidd, curator at Ventnor Botanical Garden on the Isle of Wight, interviewed by CNN. “For 15 years, they have survived winters, grown and produced leaves, and five years ago a male cycas produced a cone, and this year a male and female cycas have produced inflorescences.” In a statement, the Botanical Garden says that “it is a clear indication that warmer summers and milder winters are causing this phenomenon.”

“This is a case of flowering for the first time at such a latitude,” explains Éric Motard, a botanist technician at CNRS. “Great Britain does not have a climate that is one in which we can find the native population of the cycas revoluta, which is on much more Mediterranean, temperate, I would say almost tropical latitudes: on the Isle of Wight they will soon be able to sexually reproduce this species which is a subtropical species.” The botanical garden has also recently been able to grow other plants that are usually found in much warmer environments, such as giant geraniums from Madeira.

Rising temperatures also affect plants in France

According to Eric Motard, this phenomenon is also observed on many horticultural plants grown in France. “One sees them little by little to fructify more and more abundantly. For example, the flamboyant of Uruguay: a plant rather Mediterranean, hot, that one begins to be able to cultivate without problem in the northern half of France.”

“On the whole of the French territory, it has been demonstrated by the team of the Museum of Natural History that the optimum temperature of common plants on the territory “increases significantly these 7 or 8 last years: it is a signal which is extremely fast,” notes the scientist who, to emphasise the speed of the process, also cites the example of the caper: “while it was a rather delicate plant and almost impossible to raise there are hardly 10-15 years, now you can grow easily in urban areas, especially at the latitude of Paris.”

The caper is now easily cultivable at the latitude of Paris, unthinkable 15 years ago. © AFP / Florilegius / Leemage

In July, a joint study of several scientific organisations published in the journal Biology Letters emphasised that plants do not react in the same way to climate change: some decline when others flourish, some grow, others move north.

Global warming is definitely the biggest issue Human kind is facing, it’s not an issue for our future anymore, it’s an issue of our present time. We also suggest you read our article about the Amazon forest going into ashes.


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