Timing, as they say, is everything. Particularly in springtime, when you're waiting for the tulips to bloom, the dogwoods to flower, and the crocuses to appear. At Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, officials hope you'll alert everyone when you see that first bud burst into color.
Mammoth Cave National Park as a Project Budburst Partner is asking the public to watch and record the leafing, flowering, and fruiting cycles of ten plant species. Project Budburst is a network of people -- citizen scientists -- across the United States who monitor plants and collect ecological data as the seasons change.
“Project Budburst allows data to be collected in a consistent manner across the country so it can be used by citizens, researchers, scientists, and educators to learn how plants react to changes over time,” said Shannon Trimboli, education coordinator for the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning. “For instance, we can compare the flowering time of dogwoods from year to year, on a local, regional and national basis. You can record information from here in the park or observe plants in your own backyard. This is a great project that anyone can participate in as individuals, families, or classes.”
The ten species that Mammoth Cave staff are most interested in learning about are: mayapple, Virginia bluebells, flowering dogwood, garlic mustard, eastern redbud, Virginia creeper, beefsteak plant, spicebush, tulip poplar, and eastern serviceberry. Two on the list (garlic mustard and beefsteak plant) are invasive alien species that if left unchecked will crowd out native plants; on a farm, the beefsteak plant can out compete other plants that cattle prefer to eat.
“Mammoth Cave National Park recognizes the valuable contributions that citizen scientists can make towards better understanding the natural resources we are charged with protecting,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “We are pleased to be a Project Budburst at the Parks partner. Working together we will gain detailed data on our plant communities and how climate change may affect them.”
How do you participate? Go to the Project Budburst website and download a data form. Observe plant activity in your yard, on a farm, or in a park and record what you find. Enter your data on the Project Budburst website. If you want to collect data on plants that aren’t one of Mammoth Cave’s ten focus species, then check out the other plant lists that can be found on the Project Budburst website. Information gathered on those plants will be used by other scientists and researchers.