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updated: 1/10/2013 2:22 PM

That's right -- a tulip sighting on Jan. 9

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  • Due to the unusually mild winter so far, tulips begin to sprout on the corner of Arlington Heights Road and Northwest Highway.

       Due to the unusually mild winter so far, tulips begin to sprout on the corner of Arlington Heights Road and Northwest Highway.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

It's only the second week of January, but spring flowers are showing their green stems in Arlington Heights.

Richard Hentschel, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, said it's the first case he has heard this winter of flowers sprouting out of the ground so soon.

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Hentschel said it's not uncommon to see the tips of flowers like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths popping through the soil in early spring. It is, however, atypical to see in January. The mild winter and last summer's weather makes it possible, he said.

Additionally, bulbs located near a road, sidewalk, building or driveway that generates heat into the soil can be enticed into growing even in cold weather, he added.

The tulip stems sighted by a Daily Herald photographer Wednesday are on a little island of soil surrounded by a sidewalk, Northwest Highway and Arlington Heights Road.

"I'm going to guess this is an isolated case," Hentschel said.

Other people who see flowers popping up throughout the suburbs need not worry if they see only a bit of the plant above ground, he said.

"The flower itself is still down well in the bulb," he said.

However, he added, if the plant is more than a few inches out of the ground now and doesn't have a heat source nearby it will likely die if temperatures drop below freezing in the coming months.

Gardeners who are concerned can slow down the growth of plants by covering them with compost, straw or even the branches from a Christmas tree to "keep them in the cold and dark and help keep them dormant," Hentschel said.

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