Wanted: Leaf Peepers for Science

Wanted: Leaf Peepers for Science

Have you ever noticed the first crocuses poking out of the snow or the brilliant, changing colors of fall leaves? If so, we need your help with the critical work of studying how plants are affected by a changing climate.

Budburst, a project adopted by the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2017, brings together citizens, research scientists, educators, and horticulturists to study “phenology,” or the life-cycle events of plants. Wildflower phenology events, for example, are fairly simple: first flower, full flower, first fruit, and full fruiting. Deciduous trees, on the other hand, are more complex, with stages from first buds to leaf drop.

Sweetgum in the summer - Budburst
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seed in the summer.
Sweetgum in the fall - Budburst
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) leaves in the fall.

Budburst builds on the basic human drive to notice this kind of changing nature around us and record the information to a database for scientists to review. As director of Budburst, I’m excited to hear about your observations on Fall into Phenology, a study on the autumnal changes you see in plants, or the Nativars Research Project, which looks at how bees, butterflies, and other pollinators react to cultivated varieties of native plants.

Budburst’s Fall into Phenology is not limited to just leaf color and seed; it is about observing plants in the fall. This will be my second autumn with Budburst and the Garden, and I’m looking forward to watching some my favorite plants go through their life-cycle changes. I’ll be keeping an eye on the sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) underneath my window at the Regenstein Learning Campus, for instance. I can’t wait to see the beautiful shades of yellow or orange or…well, you just never know.


©2018 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Published by

Jean Bryan

Jean Bryan works with Budburst, a citizen science project at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She loves backyard urban agriculture, living in Chicago, and being a grandma.

One thought on “Wanted: Leaf Peepers for Science”

  1. Hi there! I think your project Budburst is very interesting. . . . However I was wondering if anyone at the Botanic Garden would be interested in historical data on horticultural plants.

    My paternal grandfather, Ernest E. Irons, was an MD and PhD who loved to garden. We have 20+ years of Garden Journals (1920s-1950s) as to what was planted where, when and the yields from his garden in Flossmoor, IL. There are also comments as to rainfall, flooding, drought, etc. Many of the journals have been transcribed by my sister. Others have had pages scanned. So, much of it is already in digital format. I would like to find someone who would find this data useful.

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