Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring is finally here...

Spring is finally arriving in the Chicago area! I saw the Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) at the Chicago Botanic Garden open its first flower on April 1 (no fooling!). This is over two weeks earlier than last year when most Forsythia first bloomed between April 17-19 in the Chicago region and more than three weeks earlier than our 2007 records (see our 2008 summary report under “Data” in the Results section of the website for more information). Coincidentally, I saw Forsythia in the same “First Bloom” phenophase in Washington DC when I was there on February 17, so their spring seems to arrive about 6 weeks earlier than ours in the northern Chicago suburbs.

Other early spring flowers in full bloom at Chicago Botanic Garden include American pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), some early daffodils (Narcissus spp.), and, as my nose reminds me, Red maple (Acer rubrum). Maples are a common cause of spring allergies. I was in Galena in far northwestern Illinois on April 11 and saw some Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) with several open flowers; one of my favorite harbingers of spring!
A friend in central Tennessee found his first morel mushrooms of the year last week. Some of the morel hunting lore about when to look for these tasty treats include:

  • When the Lilacs start to bloom
  • When oak leaves look like mouse ears
  • When the first Dandelions go to seed
  • When the Mayapple leaves have fully expanded into their classic umbrella shape

I checked our Project Budburst live maps for Lilacs, Dandelions and Mayapples to see if we had any data to confirm this folklore, but we do not have many submissions from Tennessee yet. If you’re in that region, let us know if you’re seeing Lilacs blooming or Dandelions going to seed!

Lastly, I’d like to send out a quick reminder that we are looking for good photographs of different phenophases for many species. As you go through the species phenophase field guides, you may see empty photo frames with “Photo Needed! Share your photo of this phenophase.” If you have a good photo of that species and phenophase that you would like to share, please send them to We will be happy to include your photo credit on the Website. Visit our Photo Gallery for complete information.

Thanks to all of you who are watching plants and submitting your observations! These data are helping us get a much clearer picture about how plants are responding to different climates around the U.S. This will help us predict how plants will respond to a changing climate.