January 7, 2011 Newsy Notes-earlier blooms

Last year’s early spring warm up in Connecticut brought … as one would expect … earlier bloom times for many plants. But it may not just be one season of warmth that’s causing plants to bloom sooner.

Denis Conover, a biologist at the University of Cincinnati conducted long term observations of the blooming times of the same species of wild plants growing in the Shaker Trace Wetlands at Miami Whitewater Forest in Ohio. During 2005 through 2008, 39 percent of the plants bloomed earlier than they did from 1992 through 1996. Another 45 percent of the plants bloomed at the same time and 16 percent bloomed later. Mean annual temperatures were almost two degrees warmer during the more recent survey period. Conover has also noticed earlier bloom times in other wetland areas in Ohio. According to the university press release, this is one of the first studies to document such changes in wild, as opposed to cultivated garden, settings.

My own meager observations show an earlier bloom time for red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) in 2010 – first flower on April 20 – compared with 2009 when first flower occurred on May 4. Granted this is only two years worth of observation of one native wildflower. But, when combined with multiple other observations across the country, such information can be useful for scientists studying climate change issues.

This is where Project Budburst comes in … it gives me, and you if you choose to play along, the opportunity to assist scientists in documenting bloom times of specific plants across the country.

In 2010 I also observed common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and  Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) in addition to red columbine.

Participation is easy. It can be a fun project to do with kids – getting them outside and increasing their knowledge of the natural world that surrounds them. You don’t have to live in rural areas to participate, all are welcome. Observational data is registered according to latitude and longitude, which is easy to figure out during the sign-up process. The Project Budburst resources page links to photos, descriptions, and recording sheets for 35 wildflowers and herbs, 5 grasses, 30 deciduous trees and shrubs, 14 evergreen trees and shrubs, and 6 conifers, making plant identification easy as well.

dandelion1commonlilacbuds1You can choose to observe common dandelion, or common lilac, or any other local flora from their list.

Have you joined the Project Budburst citizen scientists?

Have you observed increasingly earlier bloom times?

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7 comments for “January 7, 2011 Newsy Notes-earlier blooms

  1. January 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Hi Joene, Interesting project – I wonder if the cooler weather across the country, starting last summer, will delay blooming come spring. Also the drought conditions that affected so many might come into play – it seems a little tricky to establish cause and effect when multiple factors are involved. I’m a hopeless record keeper, but it will be interesting to see what results come in.

  2. January 7, 2011 at 9:00 am

    I remember reading about this project in your post from last year and wanted to participate, but I thought my data would be off because so many of my plants are immature (I’m still waiting to see a flower on some young trees!). This year I will record some budbreaks as I see them, and I’ll note if a plant is still young. Thanks for letting us know about this…. Interesting!

  3. joenesgarden
    January 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Cyndy, it is certainly time consuming to document bloom times. This is one reason the research from Ohio is notable – the investigator compared a series of early years with a series of more recent years.
    I fall short in keeping strong records of my own gardens but I do like to add what little I can to the Project Budburst database.

  4. joenesgarden
    January 7, 2011 at 11:56 am

    You can join Project Budburst regardless of the age of your plantings. The recording form allows space for comments where you can explain that your plants are young. The researchers take all this information into account.
    Let me know if you decide to join. I’d like to hear of your results.

  5. January 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I’m like Cyndy – hopeless at recording bloom times. I usually ‘track’ bloom time by looking back at photos of the prior year. It will be interesting to see what happens this spring since last year was so inconsistent.

  6. joenesgarden
    January 9, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Dated photos serve as a great way to track bloom times, Debbie … just another way of recording.

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