Experimental Project BudBurst:
The Floral Report Card Program

Our changing climate
How do wildflowers adapt?
Floral Report Card

Our changing climate

How will plants respond to changing climates? Orange trees in Colorado? Palm trees in Alaska? While such scenarios are extreme and unlikely, there are good reasons to know how plants will adapt as climates change and learn what new climatic zones they might be able to adapt to. Imagine observing every species in every climatic zone of the country and then moving those species to a new zone to see how they do under different conditions--that would be a monumental task! And the results would be extremely valuable for plant conservationists.

How do wildflowers adapt?

It probably isn't practical to move every species to every climatic zone to see how they will do in a new environment. But what if it were possible to gather a few plant species from different parts of the country, clone them to control for genetic differences, and then plant them as a collection in botanic gardens across the country for regular monitoring? This is just what Floral Report Card is doing. The first phenological experiment of its kind, the Floral Report Card (FRC) Program has created a network of identical climate change monitoring gardens located at botanic gardens across the United States. This network is like a nationwide "ecological antenna" where botanic garden staff, citizen scientists and students record plant phenological events such as date of first flower and date of first fruit. The FRC gardens consist of genetically identical cloned plants of six native wildflowers and grasses which were originally collected in several different climatic zones.

Floral Report Card

A scientific collaboration between NEON and the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Floral Report Card (FRC) participating garden staff are helping to answer important questions about how several important plant species might respond to changing climates.


Photos courtesy of the Denver and Chicago Botanic Gardens

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Key Research Questions

  • Do plants do best in their "home" climate zone?
     
  • Do they bloom earlier, later, or at their usual time in different climates?
     
  • Is their phenology driven primarily by temperature or day length?
     
  • Can observations be related to climatic shifts in the region?
     
  • Do some species respond better to living in a different climate than others?