tulip-tree in early May 2009
I completed my Project Budburst observations for 2009
when my tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) bloomed in my wooded piece of Connecticut. This, along with my other observations – first bloom of the common dandelion (mid-April), as well as Eastern Red Columbine and Jack-in-the-pulpit (early May) – are now listed with thousands of others at the Project Budburst website
. Phenologists use these data to build nationwide information about plant habits and climate change.
I have one, treasured tulip tree in the woods behind my house that first bloomed about May 31. Unless you have a tulip tree in a prominent area or frequently walk under one in the woods, you may not see their waxy, tropical-looking blossoms until they drop from the tips of the often 60 feet high branches. This year other commitments kept me so busy that I nearly missed catching the yellow-orange hand-sized blossoms swaying in the treetop. If you look closely in the photo above, you can pick out the orange at the base, yellow at the rim, cupped flowers facing upward as if waiting for dew to collect in their base. It’s not easy to capture these flowers on film – as my amateur photo shows – but one watchful photographer luckily caught a perfect tulip tree bloom after it fell to the ground.
But back to Project Budburst, which is a great project for getting kids and budding gardeners involved in nature watching. The website provides printable Identification Guides of native shrubs, trees, wildflowers, herbs, and grasses – with photos – making identification easy for everyone, no matter their age.
My participation renewed my interest in watching for native vegetation … what have your Project Budburst observations taught you?
Gardening Oops – Damn-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that Day – GOOPs for short – May 1. As previously explained, this Friday I’ll share one of my gardening gaffes and you can do the same, either in entirety in a comment or as a GOOPs teaser that links back to your own blog’s complete GOOPs post. Maybe we can turn our own damn-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that GOOPs into each others’ PHEW-I’m-glad-I-didn’t-do-that!
The chance for frost exists Wednesday night in Connecticut – temperatures could fall into the 30’s over the entire state. Cover any tender or just transplanted plants in outdoor exposed areas. Use old sheets, upside down baskets, or other covers that will prevent frost from settling onto tender leaves, but won’t crush the plants. Protect houseplants moved to outdoor locations for hardening off with either a cloth or bring them back inside for the night.
Remember Project BudBurst – my observations include dandelions’ first bloom which occurred on April 4, and the April 25 leaf out of my tulip tree. I’ll continue to watch for tulip tree flowers, and for my other observations.
Spring is popping up all over in the northeast making this a good time to revisit Project BudBurst. This is a national program that enlists volunteers across the country to help scientists study the biological/seasonal rhythms of plant life – in other words, phenology. By volunteering to be an amateur phenologist – that is agreeing to note first leafing, first flowering, and first fruiting of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses growing in your yard – and posting the dates of these events on the Project BudBurst website, you assist professional phenologists’ ability to map the seasonal timing of a diverse group of plant life. Scientists hope this information will shed some light on climate change across time.
I chose to watch for the first dandelion flower, as well as the first flowers on Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Eastern Red Columbine. I’ll also watch a Tulip Poplar tree to report when its first leaves and flowers appear. These were all on a list of those phenologists are seeking observations of.
For more information on this project read my initial post, then visit the link above to gain additional information on Project BudBurst and to choose the plants you want to watch. Even if you opt not to participate in the observation program, the website has great information and photos of plants growing in areas across the country.
So let’s say you’ve been gardening for a few years, and you’ve been really, really consistent at keeping your garden journal. You’ve noted when your crocus and forsythia bloom, the date of the first and last frost, monthly rain or snowfall amounts, maybe when you spotted your first hummingbird, or when you were able to plant your first peas and pick your first tomato. By now you have loads of information that is fun to look back on during the dark days of winter, but beyond a walk down memory lane, what are these records good for?
Well … in the very near future you may be able to submit this information to an historical database that will input similar information from gardeners across the U.S., all for the lofty purpose of tracking climate change.
If this topic sounds vaguely familiar, you probably read my previous posts on garden journals and on Project BudBurst. Hint: scroll down, but not until you’ve finished reading here. I’d like to say I learned all this through in depth research into phenology, but the reality is I simply learned of this by listening to the radio while driving in my car. Leave it to NPR. Their Friday afternoon broadcast, Science Friday, focused the first half of the show on phenology and the USA National Phenology Network. The topic? This group’s attempt to encourage citizen volunteers to monitor plant species … what we know as Project BudBurst. But in true NPR fashion, they delved much deeper into the numerous and expansive missions of the phenology org. They highlighted long-term plans to create this historical dataset of all the records of all the gardeners willing to share their years of journal notation; as well as their other future plans, like expanding into animal phenology in 2010. Learn more by clicking on the ‘participate’ link on their website.
How cool is this? Rather than being relegated to a musty attic or some dusty shelf, your records may actually be put to use to help monitor the life of our planet … or at least our United States’ portion of it. Think of the impressive undertaking this is, and how constructive these collective data could be. It’s like voting … your single vote may seem miniscule, but all votes compiled together direct a nation.
In deference to Pig Pen and his creator (and I know some of you will get this) … It kinda makes you look at that dusty garden journal with a little respect.
I stumbled upon information regarding this program and decided to give it a shot. Project BudBurst, is a national program that enlists volunteers across the country to help scientists study the biological/seasonal rhythms of plant life – in other words, phenology. By mapping seasonal timing of first leafing, first flowering, and first fruiting of a diverse group of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses, scientists hope to shed some light on climate change across time.
Volunteers simply choose which plants to track in their area, make note of the dates of specific phonologic events such as first leaf or flower, and register their observations via the website listed above. I chose to monitor the first flower of jack-in-the-pulpit, my one stand of eastern red columbine, and the dandelions that are so prevalent in my lawn. I’ll also take note of the first leafing and flowering of a lone tulip poplar tree in the woods behind my house.
The website makes it relatively easy to choose plants for observation by listing plants according to their area or state, and providing printable fact sheets, complete with photos, of each tree, shrub, flower, or grass. These fact sheets … helpful identification tools even if you don’t participate in Project BudBurst… list common and scientific names, and characteristics, as well as which phenologic observation to note in the online register.
The 2007 data is already posted and should be soon joined by 2008 data. This seasoned gardener is looking forward to combining her observations with the growing numbers of others collected from across the country – seems like it would be a fun learning experience for budding young investigators as well. Keep me posted if you choose to participate … perhaps we can compare notes.