Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map Has Nothing to Do With The Hunger Games

Confused if Spring is here to stay?  You aren't the only one.  Imagine life as a plant -- growing a little, getting buried under snow the next week, listening to passers-by complain about how listless you are -- all because every year some hapless gardener forces you into survival mode, planting you far from your native temperature zone, and demanding you thrive in extreme situations well outside your range.  Does this sound a lot like the premise of the popular Hunger Games series to you?  Us either, but we're running with it.
There is Not Much In Common Between This Book and the Updated
 Plant Hardiness Zone Map.  Or is there...?
Whether you are a plant, a gardener, or someone who pretends at times to be survivalist archer Gale Hawthorne, you will be pleased to learn that The Department of Agriculture has updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
Panem, as portrayed by the USDA
As described on the Web site,
"The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones."
Boulder, Colorado is coded to Zone 6a, seen in bright green on the map below, which means our Tributes --er, plants -- typically live with extreme temperatures between -10F and -5F (which is honestly like District 1 or 2 compared to some parts of the country. Take that, Katniss!)
The ability to search the Plant Hardiness Map by zip code is a new feature as of this month.  Other new features include these items:  
  • Two new zones, 12 and 13, have been added for regions with average annual extreme minimum temperatures above 50 degrees and 60 degrees F. These zones appear on the maps for Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
  • The 2012 map reflects 30 years of weather data (1976-2005). The previous edition--published in 1990--reflected 13 years of data (1974-1986).
  • Learn more about what's new in the 2012 edition of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

New Districts 12 and 13, you say?  That sounds suspicious to all of us in Panem.  And if the pressure to survive weren't enough, the United States National Arboretum has posted this list of what it suspiciously calls  "Indicator Plant Examples."  Yes, that does sound like a conspiracy to select extreme weather survivors, doesn't it?

Katniss Everdeen explores USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7a
in this photo that was in no way made by the government.

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