Monitoring at Home

Home monitoring is a great way for you to monitor on a very regular basis; the plants you are interested in may literally be in your backyard!

Other than our list of native plants we are currently monitoring, some ornamentals and other natives we suggest to monitor are:

  • Forsythia spp. (Forsythia)
  • Syringa vulgaris (Common lilac)
  • Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry)
  • Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow)
  • Taraxacum officinale (Common dandelion)
  • Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)
  • Rhododendron spp.
  • Cornus sericea (Redosier dogwood)



Photograph taken by Kelly Fischer

For those wishing to monitor phenology at home or in their own neighborhoods, follow these detailed steps to set up your observation program on the ground.

Select a Site: You will be visiting your site(s) regularly, so it should be convenient and easily accessible.

Representative location: As much as is practical, the selected site(s) should be representative of the environmental conditions for your area. Uniform habitat: The conditions of your selected site(s) should be relatively uniform across the site. If you would like to observe two adjacent but distinct habitats, please document them as separate sites. For example, a wetland adjacent to or surrounded by a drier grassland or forest should be documented as a separate site from the grassland or forest.A site should be no larger than 15 acres (6 hectares or 250 x 250 meters), a square with sides the length of 2 ½ football fields. A site can certainly be smaller than this, and larger areas can be divided into multiple sites.

What to monitor: Choose plants from our list and monitor one or more of them. Choose plants that appear to be healthy, undamaged, and free of pests and disease. If you want to observe several individuals of the same species, try to select individuals that are not direct neighbors, but are still growing in a similar environment. Because plant monitoring requires that you observe the same individual plants repeatedly, you will also need to mark each plant so that you can find it on each visit. We recommend that you mark each individual plant with a unique label. For example, you could mark pieces of flagging tape with “red maple-1”, “red maple-2”, etc. and then tie them to each of the red maples you are observing.

Visit your site(s) as often as possible. At least once a week is good, but several times a week or even once a day is even better during times of the year when things are changing quickly (e.g., March through May).

Visit each of your individual plants and check their phenophases. For each day that you make an observation, record the date and other appropriate information on your datasheet, and for each phenophase, record one of the following choices:

  • Yes (y) – if you saw that the phenophase is occurring
  • No (n) – if you saw that the phenophase is not occurring
  • Uncertain (?) – if you were not certain whether the phenophase was occurring, or if you did not check for the phenophase

It is very important to record this information, even if nothing has changed since your last visit! Knowing when a plant is not in a given phenophase is just as important as knowing when one is

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