Looking for an excuse to get outside?

I am a Nature Nut!  I enjoy getting outside at any time of the year but I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not doing something more productive. However, during the Way We Green Speakers presentation on May 15th I learned that my walks in the park can help advance science.

Elisabeth Beaubien

Elisabeth Beaubien, who holds a Phd in phenology, came to talk to us about Plant Watch, a group of volunteers who study the bloom times of plants and how they are influenced by weather and climate.

The practice of phenology goes back centuries and was used by the ancient Chinese to tell farmers when to plant their crops. The information can be used to predict events such as the best time to spray for mosquitoes or when you are most likely to be affected by allergies. Even the time between when the snow melts and the trees leaf predicts when the greatest danger of wildfires may be.

When Samuel Champlain first visited North America in the early 1600’s, the first peoples told him that “when the white oak leaf is the size of a red squirrels footprint” it is time to plant corn.

Some springs come early, some late, but regardless, plants flower in the same tidy sequence every year and this information can be put to good use.

Today here in Edmonton, you can use the life cycle of native plants to tell you when to start planting your garden. When the blue violets bloom plant your lettuce, when the leaves appear on the poplar sow your potatoes, and when the lilacs bloom put your tomatoes outside.

The collective data of Plant Watch show that over the last 100 years, Aspen trees have gradually started shedding their pollen 29 days earlier and that the last frost day has moved one day earlier each decade.

I plan to look into Alberta Plant Watch and see how I can have fun outdoors, ease my guilty conscience and maybe learn a few new things along the way.

For more information on this presentation or others visit The Way We Green Speaker’s Series videos.

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About the Author
Laura Milroy
Laura Milroy works in the Office of the Environment in community and employee engagement. Laura is an avid naturalist and enjoys observing and preserving the environment.
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