Chicago/ Weather & Environment
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Published on February 22, 2024
Chicago's Michigan Avenue Tulips Bloom Early After Warmest Winter in DecadesSource: Unsplash/Fred Tumas

Michigan Avenue's famed tulips are poking through the soil earlier than expected, undoubtedly because Chicago is wrapping up its warmest winter in nearly a century. Not usually seen until late March, the tulips have been spotted thanks to an average high this month reaching a toasty 46.5 degrees, as reported by NBC Chicago. While these resilient blooms can withstand early cold snaps, premature growth may leave them vulnerable if temperatures plunge again.

With the city’s historical last freeze dates not occurring until well into April, concerns arise that a late frost could spell trouble for the prematurely budding flowers. Typically enveloped in snow to delay their emergence, these now-exposed tulips might be facing a frosty adversary if the cold decides to return—which it has been known to do as late as May 25, a historical last freeze that occurred back in 1992.

The tulips of Michigan Avenue aren't merely random flora; they are an embodiment of planning and historical narrative, according to the Chicago Tribune. Each fall, tens of thousands are planted, destined to bloom into a spectacle likened to a van Gogh painting in spring. The Chicago Department of Transportation meticulously selects varieties from Holland, aiming for a palette that harmonizes with the urban landscape.

"The tulips that you're seeing now, that plan was adapted as much as nine months ago," John Chikow, president and CEO of The Magnificent Mile Association, told the Chicago Tribune, highlighting the in-depth anticipation that goes into the city's floral displays. The blooms that herald the onset of spring are no accident, with CDOT using protective sod and leveraging job-training programs for their planting—actions taken to ensure the return of beauty after each winter.

After their seasonal show, the bulbs don't just fade away; they find new life in the hands of residents through a giveaway organized in collaboration with the Garfield Park Conservatory. This event distributes bulbs far and wide, perpetuating the cycle of growth and injecting homes with the promise of next year's revival. As the tulips make their early debut this season, they stand as an unintended but vivid reminder that warmer winters may bring delightful surprises, but also unpredictability to a city’s carefully laid plans.