The Engineering Marvel of Spring


We can’t wait for spring! Everyone can relate to breaking out the shorts and t-shirts a bit too early, only to be slammed by another late-season blizzard. For us humans, this is a minor inconvenience at most. But for plants, this kind of miscalculation can be fatal.

If a plant sprouts too early, it runs the risk of freezing, dying or missing out on an entire year of reproduction. If it sprouts too late, it can meet the same fate by becoming overcrowded by its more timely neighbors. So how do plants know when to sprout?

It turns out, plants are more closely related to engineers than originally thought: they are master statisticians. They rely on the law of probability to plan their peak sprouting time. But, while engineers tend to count the number of warm days before breaking out of hibernation, plants take the opposite approach. They count the number of hours spent between 45°F and 32°F each year, known as "chill hours." They then use their own life experience as well as that of their ancestors to decide how many chill hours will be just right.


Once they hit their respective marks, these plants spring into action, turning our brown, dead landscape into the green picturesque scenes that we are all dying to see again asap.

So, enjoy your remaining chill hours while they last, because once you begin to bloom, it's non-stop activity until you're ready to slow down again in the fall. At least that's how our summers always go…

There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.
— Franz Kafka / novelist