Longwood's 1,000-plus acres are known internationally for their spectacular flowering plants and foliage.
Now it's about to become part of a nationwide climate laboratory.
At an event this evening, Longwood is launching a pilot partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study how climate change is affecting plant life.
Rhetoric notwithstanding, it is well-established that the annual growing seasons are getting longer in the mid-Atlantic region. That's due in part to general nighttime warming.
Deke Arndt, a researcher at the National Climate Data Center, estimates that the U.S. growing season has expanded by about two days a decade since the end of World War II.
So what does that have to do with Longwood? A place with such copious plant life should be an ideal venu for monitoring changes in growth and flowering cycles.
It turns out that Longwood has an extensive database documenting those changes, said Paul Redman, Longwood's director.
A Longwood-backed study found that plants around here are flowering about 15 days sooner than they were 150 years ago.
Longwood is one of more than 500 members of the American Public Gardens Association, of which Redman is president of the board of directors. Other member gardens have similar databases to share with the climate community, said Redman.
Longwood becomes the first to join the NOAA program. Since public edcation is part of the agreement, and Longwood has set up a climate exhibit near the Peirce-du Pont house.