Tracking Plant Life Cycle Changes

Paper Birch--An Alberta Plant Watch Subject
Paper Birch--An Alberta Plant Watch Subject

When I first started gardening, I took careful note of bloom times and foliage colors so that I could better co-ordinate plant combinations.  These observations enhance plant layout to help ensure that there is color visible in all parts of the garden throughout our season. Unfortunately, I allowed this habit to fail when I became more involved in landscaping and gardening for other people. I regret this, because I have become aware of an additional reasons to track these changes: that is in the field of phenology and the role of citizen science.

Phenology is the study of  the life cycle events of plants (or animals) in relation to the seasons and changes in climatic conditions. In the case of the home gardener, phenology can be practiced as a participant  of the Plant Watch program, a joint endeavor of Nature Canada and Environment Canada.

From the Plant Watch site:

Canadians are fortunate to live in a country with a wide variety of plant species. By participating in PlantWatch, you can learn more about our country’s botanical diversity, while helping scientists track the effects of global warming and climate change in Canada.

The plants chosen for this guide bloom every spring, largely in response to rising temperatures. However, some species are flowering almost a month earlier than they were a century ago! Scientists believe climate change is affecting blooming times – a trend that is continuing. They predict that the greatest increases in temperature will be in Western and Northern Canada, while some parts of Eastern Canada actually may be cooling. By reporting on the PlantWatch species found in your community, you can help researchers discover how common plants are responding to climate change – and track where changes are taking place in Canada, and at what rate.

For more information and guidelines for participation, go to Plant Watch.


One thought on “Tracking Plant Life Cycle Changes

  1. Hi Adrian,

    Thanks for posting the Plant Watch information. I’ve been staring at my garden spreadsheet wondering why the dates seem to be getting more or less later each Spring. I should see if there is anything I can contribute.


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