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Friday, March 27, 2009

Phenology -- the study of the timing of natural events

Not to be confused with phrenology (measuring ones skull to assess character and intelligence -- both of which appear lacking in the subject pictured), the scientific discipline of phenology provides valuable barometers of climate change by its observation of seasonal natural events, for example --the dates that daffodils bloom near Cambridge, England. A chart on this is featured in the latest National Geographic alert on the environment. I wondered about the validity of the upward trend line superimposed on a broad scatter of data. However after seeing this presentation by Tim Sparks of the UK Phenology Network I am convinced: Flowers are definitely blooming earlier nowadays.

Here are upper Midwest USA phenological observations made for this month of March by the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. It’s latest entry details the record flooding along the border of Minnesota and North Dakota – a disaster in the making. A bit cheerier is the news of someone sighting the first blooming of Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage). Whoopee!

Anyways, all this is an excuse for me to upload a photo I took last week along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi while on spring break last week. I do not know the identity of the plant in the foreground, but it caught my attention -- especially with the wonderful profusion of blooming azealas as a backdrop.
I did see the first robin in our front yard last week -- a sure sign that spring will come soon -- perhaps after the major snowstorm forecast for early next week.


  • At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I believe they are trillium sulcatum. If I were to guess I'd say newly bloomed plants and the picture was taken early evening. The next morning the flowers opened.


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