ATTENTION: Plant observers needed, especially to watch for and report specifics about Project BudBurst’s 10 most wanted. Project BudBurst is a national program that enlists volunteer phenologists – watchers of the biological/seasonal rhythms of plant life – to help actual phenologists map these rhythms across the country. Doing so helps them follow effects of climate change.
This year scientists are especially seeking information on the first leafing, first flowering, first fruiting, etc. of common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), forsythia (Forsythia xintermedia), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), spiderwort (Trandescantia ohiensis), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana, black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera), and red maple (Acer rubrum). But there are thousands of other plants you can watch as well.
Organizers ask you to enroll as a citizen phenologist – an interesting process as it forces you to learn your latitude and longitude. Then pick whatever plants, from their list, you want to follow, and report the information the scientists seek about each plant, tree, or shrub.
I first did this in 2009 and recorded budburst/first leaf and first flower of a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), as well as first flower of Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
Anyone can follow the latest 100 reported observations, or dig a little deeper into the Project BudBurst site for older data, clear guides to the various plants to be observed, and lots more information on phenology. HINT: This is a great project for parents looking to involve the kiddos in a free, interesting, and educational project that will get them outdoors and involved in nature. Who knows, maybe it will even lead them to grow from a citizen scientist to a degreed one.
Let me know if you decide to exercise your observation skills for Project BudBurst … I’d love to hear about similar experiences of fellow CT gardeners, New England gardeners, and those across the country.