Turn journaling into phenology

Morel mushrooms begin appearing about when upland sandpipers return from Argentina. (Photo by Jerry Davis)

Morel mushrooms appear when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear, someone once proclaimed.

That was an old adage using phenology to correlate one event with another.  Even though this adage is no longer as accurate as it may have been, it points out the usefulness of logging and chronicling events throughout the year and using those accounts as a guide to future foraging.

Phenology is a study of biological events, such as flowering, animal mating, plant emergence, and bird migration in relation to climatic conditions.

We’ve come to expect certain biological happenings to occur, one following another. There are many such events in May. Wind pollinated trees, as an example, flower in early spring. Wild asparagus pokes through roadside grasses about Mother’s Day.

Timing specific events with previous events is handy and expands the use of phenology to read the outdoors. We’ve come to expect ripe blackberry fruits some three weeks after blackcaps are mature. Should something, weather-wise, happen to delay or hasten black raspberries, it is convenient to predict that blackberries will be late, too.

The blackcaps ripened a week ahead of July 4 one recent year. Therefore, one might expect blackberries to mature a week earlier than normal, too.

Correlating events that cannot be seen directly or are difficult to find, such as bluegills spawning or morel mushrooms emerging can give a clue that it’s too early or now is the time to find those more hidden things we hope to gather or simply admire.

Recent history revealed pasqueflowers bloomed just about when garden rhubarb and asparagus emerged. No point in taking a two-mile hike to find this blue, dry prairie flower until I see the red rhubarb leaves poking through the wet spring earth.

If rhubarb and asparagus are 10 days early for some reason, one might expect pasqueflowers to be early, too.

Specific gathering locations might be subject to more direct sunlight or moisture, however, so use several harbingers and make note to correlate those rather than relying on different plant populations each year.

Categories: Wisconsin – Jerry Davis

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