Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Phenology...of sorts

"False Gromwell Slope" Color Pencil
(Prints Available Here)

I've practiced phenology over the years and really didn't realize it until recently. Today it was brought back to mind when I said something about going down to Waterman Prairie to check on the Pasque Flowers. Georgie thought I was getting ahead of myself...that it was wishful thinking - "It's been too cold this week." was her thought on the first bloomers there.

I checked back in this blog to April 7th of last year, and there they were! Hmmm...April 7th is a bit later yet, sure hate to wait that long!

I also keep track of other things as they happen, and refer back to them when looking for photo or viewing opportunities. I do this in my journals (they go back to the 1980's), on calendars I file away, and in my "A Tallgrass Journal" (in publication since 2002), but this blog is another way to keep track. The artwork above is a good example...if I wanted to get back to the False Gromwell Slope (my name) and photograph the plants in peak bloom, I could check my notes or even the slide mounts for dates (ya it was a long time ago!). Now-a-days I could also check my digital files for the date of creation.

Phenology is defined in the gardener's dictionary as "The scientific study of periodic biological phenomena, such as the flowering of plants, in relation to climatic conditions." I suppose it could also relate to other non-plant events like the Monarch migration, or bird migration, or even when climactic events themselves happen (?).

Today (as I write - March 23rd) the ice on the famed Walden's Pond went out. It also went out on this date in 1853...you see, Henry David Thoreau kept records of the natural occurrences around him too...sure its just a thing of curiosity but can be much more. The next year in 1854, Walden's ice didn't go out until April 7th...do you see method to my madness yet? I figure if Walden's ice can go out on this date one year but April 7th another year, then I'd better check on the Pasque Flowers at Waterman Prairie pretty quick here!!! They may be up! Ha!

As you can see I use the science of phenology very loosely; more for my own reference to when to check on things I'm interested in. But these records can actually mean something is going on if looked at over a period of many years. Walden's Pond has been recorded for some time. During Thoreau's time the dates of ice-out averaged around April 2nd...during the recorded periods in the 20th and 21st century it averaged around "Today" March 23rd! Global warming? Climate change? Aw, I have no idea! But it's the trends that can indicate things scientifically.

But one thing I do know - I'd better get down there and check on those Pasque Flowers!

No comments: