Friday, June 11, 2010

Tracking 'First Flowers'

By Rick LaDue
Program Manager, VINS-Manchester

In early April, the Manchester branch of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) began a citizen science exploration of the spring wildflowers at the Equinox Preserve. The Preserve covers hundreds of acres on the slopes of Mount Equinox in
Manchester.

Each Tuesday and Friday, a VINS naturalist -- along with a dedicated group of wildflower enthusiasts -- set out to hike the trails in search of "first flowers." First flower is the very first opening of a flower of a particular species. This phenological study is the start of gathering data regarding not just wildflower species on the Preserve, but what role the warming climate may have on seasonal events such as first flower. Data such as the GPS coordinates and date for the first flowering stage of each species was documented and photographs were taken to assist in the identification of certain species.

Two of the documented flowers are pictured above, with Herb Robert on the top, and Columbine in the second photo. Photos by Cathy Stewart.

Wildflower species we encountered ranged from the common (trout lily and wild strawberry) to the more obscure showy orchids and plantain-level sedge. In all, more than 40 wildflower species were identified and catalogued on these 90-minute hikes.

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