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Project BudBurst

In 2009, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (ANHC) helped promote the nationwide citizen-science initiative, Project BudBurst.  For the first time, we linked the data collected here in Arkansas with national data. Just as the name implies, Project BudBurst was designed to collect data from the public on the first appearances of buds, leaves, seeds, and fruits in everything from trees to weeds.

ANHC is no longer participating in this citizen-science project, but you still can! Visit Project BudBurst for information on how to register, plant identification guides, and educational resources. Data can either be entered directly online or on a reporting form.

The science involved is known as “phenology,” an ancient study that measures the timing of the life-cycle events of all animals and plants. Observations of phenological events have provided indications of the progress of the natural calendar since ancient agricultural times. Records of grape harvests in Europe have been used to reconstruct a record of summer growing season temperatures going back more than 500 years. Many cultures have traditional phenological proverbs and sayings which indicate a time for action: "If oak's before ash, you're in for a splash. If ash before oak, you're in for a soak.”

Phenological records have scientific value for understanding the interactions between organisms and their environment and for assessing the impacts of climate change. They also record the consequences of environmental variability and change vital to the public interest. Events such as the beginning of the growing season can vary by three weeks or more from year to year. Such variations have important environmental and socio-economic implications for health (allergens and infectious diseases), recreation (fall colors and wildflower displays), agriculture (planting and harvest times, pest control), and management of natural resources (water and timber) and hazards (monitoring and prediction of drought and fire risk).

With recent evidence of global warming, phenological data have assumed a special role over the past decade as an independent measure of the impacts of climate change on the biosphere. The flowers and plants in your own backyard or neighborhood park also have a role in this global drama. Like other ANHC citizen-science projects, anyone can participate. Participants simply choose a plant or plants to observe from a list of widespread, easy to identify trees, shrubs, wildflowers, ornamentals and even weeds.

Plants from the Project BudBurst monitoring list that occur in Arkansas are listed below - click on each link to learn more about that plant.

Native Trees and Shrubs

Bald cypress
Black locust
Common elderberry
Eastern redcedar
Flowering dogwood
Red maple
Southern magnolia
Tulip poplar

Native herbaceous plants

Big bluestem
Common yarrow
Dogtooth violet
Eastern red columbine
Indian pink
Pink evening primrose
Purple passion flower
Wild strawberry

Non-native Plants

Common dandelion
Common lilac
Field mustard
White clover

Project BudBurst is operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and a team of partners including the U.S. Geological Survey and the USA National Phenology Network. The project is funded in part with a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and is also supported by the National Science Foundation.

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