If you have spent any of the astronomical spring, March 21st to Memorial Day in Wisconsin, then you know that rain, snow, sun, occasional frost and even snow in May, can all be par for the course. We all have memories of that big ice storm, or that snow in May, but one way for us to get a better understanding of these trends and happenings is to take a look at “phenology.” Webster defines phenology as, “a branch of science dealing with the relations between climate and periodic biological phenomena (such as bird migration or plant flowering).” A couple of years ago we had a speaker at Science for Everyone from the Wisconsin Phenology Society (WPS). She spoke of how we can get involved, as citizen scientists, to help track various phenomena that occur every spring in Wisconsin and nationally. They (WPS) are connected to the National Phenology Network (NPN) doing the same thing on a national level. Their website is well worth an hour of your time on a rainy afternoon investigating the maps and data they have accumulated and how it is used. It also has information on how you can get involved as well. (Citations and a link to the websites are at the end of my notes)
The NPN uses a series of data inputs, starting on January 1st of each year to develop maps of what they call extended spring indices. Inputs of temperature, storms, snow and ice melt connected with historical data help us answer the question, “When will spring get to my area?” in a map format. The two plants used in this index are a variety of lilac and a honeysuckle. Not native I know, but these plants have a huge range, north-south and east-west. So looking at first bloom and leaf out on easy to find, ubiquitous plants makes for a lot of data that can be tracked over a very large area. The bad news coming from this year’s data show us, in this part of Wisconsin, having a spring that will be around two weeks late. Oh well, it will get here, the flowers will bloom and we’ll get back in the garden, we just have to be patient a little bit longer.
The good news, however, is that the 32nd annual spring Wildflower Sale at Lac Lawrann is only a little over a week away. The dates are May 10th from 3-6pm for members and May 11th from 9am to 1pm for all. Our volunteers have been braving the rain and cool weather and have over 5000 plants potted as I write this note. So mark your calendars for May 11th, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and this time I’ll see you at the sale.
Links NPN https://www.usanpn.org/data/spring_indices
USA National Phenology Network. 2019. Spring Indices, Current Year – First Bloom – Spring
Paul De Chant
President, Friends of Lac Lawrann