Crow’s Nest bloom dates

April 4, 2012

I just returned from a vacation in Nashville and was pleased to find that the season hadn’t advanced here too much while I was gone. The shadbush (Amelanchier) is blooming, and the redbuds are just starting, but after experiencing the advanced progress of the season on our travels it is nice to find I didn’t miss spring.

Everything is fully leafed out in Nashville and it felt like mid-May—a big change even from our mild late March this year. It’s probably fair to say that neither region experienced a typical winter and early spring. I try to track the first bloom dates of many things at Crow’s Nest, and use photographs (that have digital metadata that contains the date taken) to compare year to year.

The science of studying the dates of physiological changes in plants is phenology (not to be confused with phrenology—a pseudoscience that compares the shape of the human skull to the bearer’s character and abilities).

With internet technology there is now the ability for citizen scientists to provide data for first bloom dates in their region. In aggregate and tracked over time this information can reveal patterns of change.

The USA National Phenology Network provides the framework for entering and viewing this data, and even has available smartphone apps so that you can upload the data directly from the field (or woods).

You also might recall that Zoe Panchen, Fellow in the Longwood Graduate Program, did a study in 2010 that tracked changes in bloom dates of several native species from photographic records and herbarium specimens. Crow’s Nest was one of her research sites.

Stay tuned this spring, I’ll try to highlight on the weblog what’s blooming as it’s happening.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 4, 2012.