Monday, June 22, 2009

Mid-June Phenology

Nature Watch

By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education

Have you seen a fawn followed by its mother? How about a yellow, tiger swallowtail around the lilacs or flying through your yard, or an orange flower blooming? If you notice these sorts of things, then you're a phenologist! Phenology is the study of the behavior of animals and plants in relation to changes in climate and season. Take some time out to notice what is changing this time of year.

Bogs are a beautiful place to visit with the multitude of flowers blooming in them. Some of the flowers currently blooming are white tufts of the cotton grass, the small pink bog laurel, Labrador tea, or three leaved Solomon's seal. Pink lady slipper orchids are at the tail end of their blooming seasons. To discover an amazing, accessible bog, try the Uhrenholdt Forest in Seeley, on County Highway OO, on the north side of the road. A boardwalk goes right through the center of the bog. Bogs are truly amazing places to visit!

Other woodland flowers that are blooming in mid-June are blueberry, yellow barren strawberry, and fringed polygala. Wild strawberries ripen. The first white-tailed deer fawn can be seen in forest areas. The first fireflies are also observed, usually in mid- to late-June. These are all events to watch for in the forest.

In meadow areas, we see yellow, tall buttercups, orange or yellow hawkweed which will soon be blooming, and the ox-eye daisies which will follow after. Do hawks eat hawkweed plants to improve their vision? According to a folktale this is how this plant was named. In fact, hawkweed was brought to America by herb doctors to cure eye diseases. Hawkweed is also referred to as the "devil's paintbrush" because it invades farmers' fields. Similar hawkweeds are yellow. The ox eye daisy belongs to the composite family and is named for its multiple, tiny disk flowers in the yellow center, surrounded by the twenty to thirty white "petals" (each "petal" is actually an individual flower.) The ox eye daisy is native to Europe but has naturalized throughout all regions of the United States. In England, the name daisy means "the day's eye," because it closes at night and opens in the day. Another common name is bruisewort, because its crushed leaves were often used for soothing bruised skin. The daisy has also been used to tell fortunes. Many people have played "he loves me, he loves me not" with the daisy. Since the daisy usually has an uneven number of petals, if you start with "he loves me," chances are pretty good that you will end with "he loves me."

In becoming a phenologist, flowers are a good place to start. Wildflowers come in seasonal cycles, they are often colorful and pretty, and they are relatively easy to locate because they don't move around or run away—like birds or other wildlife. Keeping a phenology notebook is an easy way for youngsters and adults alike to begin developing naturalist skills in order to learn more about the natural world around them.

Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility and exhibits, the Curiosity Center and Brain Teasers 2, in Cable at 13470 County Highway M. Also find us on the web at to learn more about exhibits and programs.

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