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Plants offer clues to weather forecasting

The signs are everywhere if we know where to look for them Keystone Archive

Aida Godel is studying a field of flowers. By looking at the plants and the signals they give off, she knows what the weather is going to do tomorrow.

This content was published on October 19, 2001 - 14:49

Aida, who comes from Orsonnens in canton Fribourg, offers courses in plant behaviour. To those who can read the signs, a meadow of flowers is a living, breathing weather centre.

"This little plant grows all over Europe," she says, pointing to the blue flower of wild chicory. "It's very ancient and has extraordinary properties. It shuts six to eight hours before rain and even when it's pouring, it reopens with remarkable precision some six to eight hours before the good weather returns.

"It's got medicinal properties too. The emperor Tiberias supposedly drank an infusion of its roots every night to drop off to sleep. It has a calming effect but can also be a pick-me-up depending on the dosage."

Years of observation

Further on, a neatly stacked pile of logs provides further clues. One of the logs is split and Godel says it will swell and contract for many years according to the temperature and humidity.

"Now, it's practically shut but in the last few days with the beautiful weather and dry conditions, it was wide open. Even a simple piece of wood moves continuously."

Godel describes the provenance and the legends of the plants around us. Some of the knowledge was acquired from her father, the rest picked up in a lifetime of observation.

She describes species which can be used for healing, others which supply moisture for the plants around them. Some of them do not always play the game.

Abundant signs

"Among plants, just as among human beings, there are also some who cheat and who don't want to do the same thing as everyone else," she said. "You need to check lots of the same plant to be sure. With dandelions, for example, there's quite often one, which doesn't do the same thing. It just doesn't want to."

The signs are abundant - leaves changing colour, pinecones opening and closing, grass lying flat - if you know where to look for them but is it really possible to predict what the weather is going to do tomorrow?

"We've seen several things today," said Godel. "We saw the chicory which was open, we saw other plants which were half-open. Tomorrow, in this region, we could have some storms and changeable weather. If all the plants had been open without moving, I'd have said it was going to remain fine but I think it's going to rain."

The following day, her forecast came true.

by Vincent Landon

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