Wait . . . what is that?
Phenology is the scientific study of periodic natural phenomena (e.g. flowering or first leaf appearance) as these events are influenced by climate. Observation and collection of plant phenology data has been practiced for centuries in Japan, China and England. Today there is a vast network of individuals, worldwide recording plant, animal, bird, and insect observations. Now you can help by collecting information on urban trees. Scientists will use the data to monitor the change of seasons across a region and to document longer-term changes due to climate variations.
What to Observe: Observations vary slightly by species but generally include:
- Flowering events including the appearance of flowers and/or pollen
- Leaf events including first leaf, fall color, and senescence (aging)
Phenophase Field Guides are available for all of the targeted urban tree species to help you identify these plant stages. In addition, many species have detailed Resource Pages.
Getting Started: Visit the UTP project page at Budburst (www.urbantreephenology.org) and view or download the Helpful Materials; this will give you a better understanding of the project and how you can help. Then, select a species from the list or a species of importance in your community. When selecting your species and tree consider:
- A species that is commonly planted and an important part of your urban forest (native, exotic, or cultivar). Proper species identification is critical; note the cultivar if applicable and known.
- Choose a specific tree of this species that you see daily (if possible) or at least weekly – a tree near your home, office, daily walking/jogging path makes a good choice. Avoid trees that you must “go out of your way” to observe.
- Pick a tree that is in good condition, of any age (i.e. size). Avoid those in any stage of decline or with obvious signs of damage.
- List the phenophases that you will be observing with their approximate dates in your area (visit the Budburst species Resource Page or Budburst results and data links if necessary).
- Join UTP and register your location and species.
- Initially, concentrate your efforts on a single tree (or maybe two).
- In the weeks preceding an anticipated phenophase event, observe daily.
- Report promptly on-line. Observation reporting is done at www.urbantreephenology.org. A series of short instructional videos are available at: http://www.urbanforestrysouth.org/resources/urban-forestry-and-phenology.
- Get others involved – Enlist Master Gardeners, Garden Clubs, Tree Board members, or college classes/students.
- If possible, extend your reach to additional trees of the same species or, other common species in your community.
Other Involvement: The Urban Tree Phenology project also needs photos of primary species at various phenophases.
Questions? Contact Dudley Hartel, Urban Forestry South at firstname.lastname@example.org or (706) 559-4236.