I think this discussion of why plants bloom in the fall is revealing something about ourselves as well as telling us something about plants. To begin with, what is at all unusual about plants blooming in the fall instead of the spring? The simple answer is this: because so many of us live in severe-winter areas, and since so many of our cultural traditions are based on the cycles as they exist in cold-winter areas, we expect the natural world to observe those same traditions! Rather than being unusual, I subscribe to the hypothesis that the fall blooming pattern is the original, natural, normal one for the Mediterranean flora, and that the spring blooming of north temperate plants is derivative, an adaptation to the northward movement of ancestral populations from the Mediterranean basin into higher, colder northern areas. Autumn-blooming seems unusual to many of us simply because it does not characterize the flora we are used to. The distinction made in cold-winter zones between spring and fall - very distinct seasons in areas where winters are severe - is not so clear in a Mediterranean climate. In a Mediterranean climate, fall is really the beginning of the growing season for many plants, isn't it? Fall initiates the season of moisture and temperate temperatures, both factors which promote growth. The dry summers induce dormancy in many plants, a dormancy comparable to the winter dormancy of plants in severe-winter zones. Of the Mediterranean summer and winter, isn't the Mediterranean summer the more extreme? In other words, isn't the Mediterranean summer more hostile to plant growth than the Mediterranean winter? The season we call fall is the beginning of the growing season in the Mediterranean, isn't it? And notice the north temperate bias in that word "fall": it refers to the fall of the leaves in cold-winter areas. Many Mediterranean trees are evergreen. In terms of plant growth, the Mediterranean fall really corresponds more closely to the severe-winter area spring. The Mediterranean summer really corresponds more closely to the severe-winter area winter. Yes, I'm aware that many areas where bulbs are prominent in the flora offer a double whammy: dormancy-inducing winter cold and dormancy-inducing summer drought. Those plants of the temperate Eurasian flora which have their ancestry in plants from the far south almost certainly postpone the initiation of annual growth until spring simply because northern winters would destroy soft new growth and developing seeds. Even a plant as tough and cold tolerant as Helleborus niger, a common European alpine plant, will not set seed here in Maryland from autumnal or early- and mid- winter flowers simply because we do not have snow cover. The developing seeds freeze and die when exposed to our winter air temperatures. Only seeds from late-winter-appearing flowers mature. The same thing sometimes happens here with autumn blooming bulbs such as Sternbergia: in really severe winters, the seed pods are destroyed by the winter. Some autumn-blooming bulbs are very well adapted to cold-winter areas. Take Crocus speciosus for example. Although it blooms in October, its seeds do not ripen until late April or early May - on the same schedule as those of the late-winter blooming Crocus tommasinianus which blooms four months after Crocus speciosus. The developing seed pods of Crocus speciosus are held below ground until the severe winter weather is over. That option, i.e. keeping the ovary protected underground until the weather moderates, is not available to plants which produce their inflorescence at the tip of a long scape. Thus, when such plants are autumn flowering, such as Lycoris, the seeds develop rather quickly and are mature before the onset of severe weather. The ripe seeds fall to the ground and begin to germinate immediately, with luck under a cover of autumnal debris. Even those who dispute the relevance of the above for the entire or majority Mediterranean flora will have to admit that there is a flora which grows as if fall were spring, winter were summer, and spring were autumn. For this to make sense, you have to remember that I am not referring to temperatures or daylight length; I'm simply observing the seasons in which some plants grow. So in addition to the causative factors already mentioned, I think the good growing conditions which prevail during the fall-winter-spring period must have had a huge influence in determining the growth schedule of the Mediterranean flora. And to repeat, the spring-flowering pattern is likely to be derivative. Should any strict climatologists be reading this, my apologies for speaking so broadly about the "Mediterranean" climate. Jim McKenney Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where Osmanthus x fortunei, Camellia oleifera, C. sasanqua, Crocus pallasii, C. thomasii, and C. asumaniae have all joined the party.