Mother Nature’s Timetable

“Purple crocuses up.” “Wild columbine swollen with buds.” “Cabbage white eggs on collards.” “First mosquito bite.” These are just a few notations I made in a pocket calendar I started carrying around in 2004. I knew that other gardeners, farmers and naturalists have long kept such records, but didn’t realize that this type of observation had a scientific name. Phenology, as it’s called, is the study of the changes in plants and animals in response to seasonal cycles. Laypeople as well as researchers contribute to the body of knowledge. Scientists are interested in the simple observations we make in our own yards, neighborhoods and parks throughout the year. The National Phenology Network encourages individuals throughout the United States to keep notes and submit data on selected species in their area. In North Carolina, the network monitors eastern redbud, wild strawberry, red maple and black locust, to name a few. These valuable records provide interesting comparisons between different geographical regions, as well as help researchers assess the impacts of climate change. To submit your own information, visit the network’s Web site at: www.uwm.edu/Dept/Geography/npn Or contact Mark D. Schwartz, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201, (414) 229-3740.

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