Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Wildflowers...

Phacelia distans – Distant Phacelia
 Image credit: P. Warren
Here in Tucson we've had a nice mix of winter weather balanced by warm temps over the last few months.  It's been a relatively rainy fall and winter and that means we should have an excellent wildflower season this spring.  Now we just need to wait for it to warm up a bit more.....

Spring is a great time to get out and do a hike in the desert.  It is warm enough to hike without being overly bundled, but still cool enough that the sun is not overwhelming.  These days when I hike I pay much more attention to phenology around me. I've always been a hiker but having something specific to look for, such as knowing native plants and animals and their phenological cues, makes it more interesting.  And being able to create a monitoring site using Nature's Notebook to track what I am seeing makes it even more fun (especially with a mobile app...).

Pima Canyon, Tucson, Arizona
 Image Credit: L. Barnett
On a recent hike in Pima Canyon (here in Tucson) we noticed that ocotillo at lower elevations were leafing out with young leaves, jojoba had emerging and almost open flower buds, and there were many little wildflowers emerging like the Distant Phacelia in the photo above.  And this year, since I am curious, I have found a few places that are providing real-time live updates on flowers blooming in our area.  Maybe you all have been following such things for a while, but I'm new to the scene. One site is DesertUSA.  I've actually gotten a lot of phenology and blooming info on the local and national scene via twitter.  And another site with general information is from the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum - Conservation and Science Education Program.  What ways can you find out about phenological happenings near you?  Could you create a photo-phenology program as my friends from the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, WI have done? 

This past weekend our National Coordinating Office team here at USA-NPN set up an educational booth in the Science City at our Tucson Festival of the Books.  This was a great way to test a few of my activities for kids, like the Phenology Bingo game, network with other outreach organizations and look at the lady bugs, insects, and desert blooming plants the Master Gardeners had set up. 

Phenology bingo can be used in a variety of ways, but in this case was used as a conversation starter for youth and adults interested in what phenology is all about.  Questions like 'Have your ever..' "caught a firefly" or "hatched a monarch" serve either as nostalgia for people who grew up on the east coast or memories of interesting things done in a classroom.  So here is a shout-out to those teachers who taught the life cycle unit using a caterpillar, showed kids how to make flour from a mesquite bean, took them on a field trip to the desert museum to see the desert tortoise hibernate, or implemented a school garden to observe pollinators.  Your students told us all about it!  Why not build on those observation activities and add Nature's Notebook to your repertoire? After all, if the flowers aren't blooming where you are yet, they will be soon and kids may be ready to capture all of that using data collection, words, and pictures.

Image credit: P. Warren
Image credit: L. Barnett


  1. Great nature game idea, LoriAnn!

    1. Thanks! I'm working on writing it up as a lesson plan now, so I'll share it when it is ready! :)