Learn How to Observe
Watching plants and reporting what we see is the core work of Budburst. We watch for the key life events of a plant during the growing season. These events differ depending upon the type of plant but usually including leafing, flowering, and fruiting events. The study of these events is called phenology. Budburst observers benefit from knowledge of these topics:
- The definition of phenology: its history and key research questions
- Five plant groups: based on similarity of phenology events
- Reporting Protocols: the two Budburst reporting protocols.
In the science world ‘how” we observe and report is referred to as a protocol. These are the common set of procedures each researcher uses when recording new data so as to standardize the data. Following the same procedure minimizes potential data inconsistencies based on the individual. Using Budburst protocols assures that every observation report includes the same set of data points: the date, plant name, location, details about the location, and the phenophase(s) observed.
Observe Your Plant
Observing a plant requires, of course, that you first identify your plant. Secondly, you identify what it is, precisely, that you are seeing. So...
Which plant do you want to watch? Common names for plants vary greatly, often by region. Therefore, Budburst recommends learning and using the scientific name of your plant whenever possible. Your local nature center or nursery can help you identify native plants common to your area.
Some Plant Suggestions:
- Budburst Plant List - It's easy to report observations of a plant in your backyard, school, or local park!
- Budburst Partners - Your local Budburst partner recommends ten ecologically important local plants for you to observe.
- Budburst Projects - Join one of our focused projects and contribute your unique data.
Your plant isn’t on the Budburst plant list? That's okay! You can still report observations for any plant whose phenology is similar to those in one of the five Budburst Plant Groups.
Budburst records specific data for each observation report: plant name, location of the plant with details about that location, and the phenology of the plant. For a deciduous tree like the Eastern redbud, phenology events revolve around flowering, leafing, fruiting, and autumn leaf color and drop. Events for a deciduous tree differ from those of a wildflower or a grass, or even from another type of tree such as a conifer.
- See the Budburst Plant Groups page for an overview of phenology events for each of the five Budburst plant groups.
- To learn the phenology events for your specific plant check its Budburst page via the Plant Search page.
Protocol 1: Life-cycle Observations
At Budburst, plant observations take two forms: life-cycle or one-time. A life-cycle observation is event-driven. Each phenology event for a plant is reported by submitting the date it occurs. Monitoring a plant in this way includes watching that plant regularly throughout its growing season.
For Example: Perhaps you signed up with Budburst because you enjoy watching the redbud outside your kitchen window. You think, “I’ll report the phenology events for that tree.” Because you observe changes in that plant every few days, you can be fairly certain when the first flowers open; when bud burst happens; and when the first leaves unfurl. You look up the plant in the Budburst website and learn its phenology events. In spring you notice the first buds and flowers appear on the redbud. Time to make a report!
Protocol 2: One-time Observations
A one-time observation is status-driven, a report of the phenology status for one plant on one day.
Example: You happen upon on an Eastern redbud while on vacation. You’ve never seen this tree before and you may never see it again. It is one tree on one day. Several branches have open flowers, but not all. You were not present when only three branches had flowers, so you can’t report when it reached “First Flower.” However, you can say it is in “Early Flower.” You also check for leafing (none yet) and, of course, you observe there’s no fruiting yet. Enter the date and data online: you’ve made a one-time report.
All plant reports, whether life-cycle or one-time, provide important information on how plants respond to changes in climate and environment.
Report Your Observations
To begin the process of reporting your observations - whether life-cycle or one-time - log into your Budburst account. To register with Budburst and create your account, follow these steps:
Create Your Budburst Account
Use the Create an Account link to set up your account. You must be at least 13 years of age to create your own Budburst account.
- Type in all required fields, including your choice of login name (do not use your email) and password.
- Completing the demographic survey is optional.
- Click the “I am an educator” option if you plan to use this account for teaching purposes; you may edit this status later. Educator accounts have several teaching related features; see the For Educators page for more information.
- Submit your registration to automatically send a welcome email to the address provided. Use the link provided in that email to complete your registration.
Log in to Your Budburst Account
Log into your Budburst account from the Budburst homepage or the link in the upper-right corner of any page in this website.
- Your Dashboard provides a summary of your activities in Budburst.
- My Account allows you to edit your account information, upload a profile picture, and edit your login information or change your password.
- Reports allows you to add a new phenophase date to a current Life-cycle Observation, edit a recent report, or edit one of your locations.
- My Data provides access to the data you have already submitted. (Use the top menu item, DATA, to view all Budburst data.)
Submit a New Observation Report
Click on the Submit New Report button.
Select Plant: In the Plant Name box, begin typing in either the common name or the scientific name for your plant. Options from among the 300 Budburst plants will auto-fill the dropdown menu. Choose your plant from among the options.
IF your plant does not show up in the Plant Name dropdown, check the Budburst Plant List. If it is NOT in the Budburst plant list, click on the +Add New Plant button to add this plant to your personalized plant list. Fill in the form as requested. Click Next.
Plant nickname box is optional; use it if you are tracking two of the same plant in the same location. For example, if you have two Redbuds in your yard, name one, “front yard Redbud” and the other “side yard Redbud” so you will know which is which. Enter each one separately. Click Next.
Select Location: Once created, your locations will appear automatically in your personalized Location dropdown menu.
To create a new location, click on the Add New Location button and fill in the following details:
- Location name: add a name that is meaningful to you. This location will stay in your Budburst account and can be quickly selected whenever you add a new plant for that location.
- Search address: type in an address OR use the map (use the “+” option multiple times to drill down to a close approximation of the plant’s location) to provide latitude and longitude for the location.
- Describe location: Select the best description for irrigation, shading, proximity of concrete or asphalt, and general description.
- Click Next to proceed to enter your observation.
Enter Observation: Select which of the two observation reports you are creating: a One-time Report or a Life-cycle Report (note that to add a new observation to an existing Life-cycle Report, go to Reports in the left menu).
- Each new Life-cycle Report includes a list of phenology events, each with an accompanying space for its own date. Add one or more phenology dates; add Comments as needed. Add remaining dates as needed by editing this existing report.
- Each new One-time Report includes a list of options to report on the plants phenology status on a particular date. Add Comments as needed.
Click Submit Report to complete the observation report process.
To add a new phenology event to your Life-cycle Report: In your Budburst account select Reports. Scroll down to find the correct Life-cycle Report. Add the date next to the appropriate phenophase; Click on Save. Edit Comments as needed.
Every observation you report will show up on your Budburst account Reports page. It’s amazing how quickly your list will grow!
All reports may be edited within the calendar year they were created. At the end of each calendar year, all observations for that year are archived.
Budburst data is available for anyone to download and use. A budburst account is not required for data downloads.
Go to Data Page
Select 'Data' from the top menu item.
Querying the Data
Once at the data page, enter the parameters of the data you would like to download. For example, if you want to download all the data related to cherry blossom time:
- Report type - select the report type of interest, or leave blank to get all report types
- Plant Species - click in the Plants field and type cherry; you will see all the types of cherries and you can pick one (or more than one by clicking in the bar and repeating the procedure)
- States - select the states of interest or leave blank to get all states
- Phenophases - select the phenophases of interest or leave blank to get all phenophases (e.g. first flower)
- Date range - select the date range of interest, or leave blank to get all dates
When done entering your criteria, click 'Search'.
Downloading, Sorting, and Scrolling Through Data
You will now get a list of records found in the database that match your criteria.
You can download the data as an excel file by clicking the 'Excel' button, or as a CSV file buy clicking the 'CSV' button. The downloaded spreadsheet contains more precise location data and additional fields not displayed in the search results.
You can also sort the data by clicking on the column names for common name, species, location, state, phenophase, and date.
To scroll through the records, click on the page numbers on the bottom of the screen, or click the right arrow to go from page to page.