Eyes on Plants, Shrubs and Trees

Looking for a free project that involves plant watching, helps advance science and … parents, grandparents, teachers take note … can be done with children? Project BudBurst fits the bill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAProject BudBurst collects information from scientists and citizen scientists who monitor growth patterns, known as phenophases, of wildflowers and herbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees throughout the U.S. Doing so takes no special training, just the desire to watch and record the time of first leaf, first bud, first flower, peak flowering, final flower, first ripe fruit, peak fall color, and leaf drop – events gardeners notice anyway; events non-gardeners can easily learn to watch.

Phenologists – people who monitor seasonal lifecycle phases of living things – use this information to study climate change. Read more about Project BudBurst and the kid-centered BudBurst Buddies in my most recent Garden Zone article, Plant-Watching Can Advance Climate Study.

This volunteer project is a great way to introduce children to life outdoors. Plant-watching leads to improved understanding of plant needs and how weather and people affect plant survival. This can open topics of insect life, animal life, water use, soil health, and how various actions may alter all of these. The enrollment process even guides you how to locate the latitude and longitude of your property – assuming you will be observing in and around your property. The learning possibilities are nearly endless.

I’m going on my third year as a Project BudBurst observer. I wish this project was available, long ago, when my children were little. When my granddaughter is old enough I plan to enlist her in BudBurst Buddies so we can plant-watch together. It’s easy to enroll, the plant resource lists and guides are wonderful (you can access these even if you don’t enroll), and it’s interesting to occasionally check out the reported observations. You can also review observations, including mine and the handful of other Connecticut observers, recorded in 2007, 2008, and 2009 (2010 data is not yet posted).

My previous observations include:

  • Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) – the photo at the left shows the associated plant guide. I have just one of these native plants growing in the woods around my house. It grows amongst large granite boulders and directly in the shade of a fallen tree trunk. I suspect this sheltered location has kept marauding deer from munching the the leaves, stems and flowers of this woodland native.
  • common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) which, in 2010, showed first leaf on March 29 and and first flower on April 24. Not so sure I’ll note these event so early this year.
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis),
  • Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum),
  • Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale),
  • and Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) – I use binoculars to check for first leaf and first flower on the sixty-plus foot tall tulip tree behind my house.

If you are a social media user you can follow Project BudBurst on Facebook or search #budburst on Twitter. Link to both of these or sign up for email updates through the Join the BudBurst Community box on their website.

I’d love to compare notes with fellow Project BudBurst observers in Connecticut and elsewhere, so If you sign up please keep me posted.

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4 comments for “Eyes on Plants, Shrubs and Trees

  1. March 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Great info. You’ve written about this before and I need to check it out! It will be interesting to compare this year to our very fast and very warm spring last year.

  2. joenesgarden
    March 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Laurrie, let me know if you decide to do Project BudBurst. We can compare phenology differences between our gardens.

  3. March 23, 2011 at 6:26 am

    What fun. Our granddaughters are a bit young for this but it will not be long. I am saving the URL.

  4. joenesgarden
    March 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Once our granddaughters are old enough to participate we could compare notes between your gardens and mine. That will be fun for us and our future gardeners.

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