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A project of the Chicago Botanic Garden


Phenology and Climate


Help us understand how plants are responding to this year's seasons and longer-term changes in climate

How plants react to seasonal change has a big impact on the environment. Because plants are at the base of the food chain, anything that affects plants can impact other parts of the ecosystem. Phenology is important because it affects plants ability to produce fruits and seeds and food availability for other animals like birds and squirrels. It is important to humans because our food supply depends on plants blooming when pollinators are available. And, to scientists, changes in the timing of phenological events can be used as indicators of changing climates.

Learn more about phenology here.


How is climate change affecting plant phenology?

Changes in phenological events can also have a significant impact on how we humans live our lives and interact with our environment on a daily basis. For example, the timing of when plants flower and fruit can affect our food supply and therefore our health. Pollen allergies can also be exacerbated by changes in growing conditions. People who are allergic to plant pollen will experience reactions to the changes in flowering times and the lengthening of the growing season.

From historical records and observations, we know that phenological events can vary from year to year. Ecosystems can recover from variation between years, but when these changes happen consistently over many years, the timing of events such as flowering, leafing, insect emergence, and allergies can impact how plants, animals, and humans are able to thrive in their environments.

How to Participate


Anywhere you can observe a plant.



Log into your Budburst Account and submit a phenology observation.

Report using your handheld device or record your observations on a printable datasheet here and add your findings online later.

  1. Broadleaf Evergreens Observation Sheet
  2. Conifers Observation Sheet
  3. Deciduous Trees and Shrubs Observation Sheet
  4. Grasses Observation Sheet
  5. Wildflowers & Herbs Observation Sheet

Fall into Phenology

What autumn changes do you notice in the plants in your neighborhood, schoolyard, or community?

See the Challenge

Summer Solstice Snapshot

In the heat of summer it can feel as though everything slows down, but the plants around you are still changing.

See the Challenge

Cherry Blossom Blitz

In many parts of the country, the arrival of cherry blossoms is a sure sign that spring is here.

See the Challenge

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