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.
Have you joined the Project Budburst citizen scientists?
Have you observed increasingly earlier bloom times?