Wow, did Mother Nature ever check in late for Spring this year!
As the skiers enjoyed Old Man Winters extended stay, the rest of us became increasingly impatient, fed up, disgusted, restless, outraged, stressed, crazed (pick one or all) as we waited for warm weather, snow-free hiking trails, and green things that grow.
How Did We Know Spring Was Late?
Well, for me personally, a big indicator was the prairie crocus, which is usually our first sign of Spring (see photos).
Now, onto the topic of snow, a word that is still haunting many of us.
Now, we Rocky Mountain dwellers are used to snow in its proper time and place Winter! And yes, weve lived here long enough to expect Winters last laugh in the form of a big Spring snowstorm or two, but we still don’t expect one every week. This is the first time most of us have seen the spring snow piled high enough that the local bunny population could actually climb up and prune our shrubs and trees
So, what’s normal?
Yes, we all had that gut feeling that Spring was excruciatingly slow to arrive. But how do we actually know whats normal in terms of the seasons? Obviously, one way is to follow the weather reports, and indeed, our temperatures were well below the seasonal average this Spring.
However, getting back to the crocuses, one of the big indicators for seasonal timing is the annual blooming times of native plants and flowers. Plant phenology is the study of plant life cycles, and how these are influenced by seasonal variations in climate. There is an ongoing nation-wide plant phenology study, the Alberta branch of which is the Plant Watch program, coordinated by Elizabeth Beaubien at the University of Alberta.
Such a program requires a lot of data, in a consistent format, and Plant Watch gathers that data from enthusiastic naturalists throughout the province. A species count takes place annually on the last weekend in May, with teams of volunteers heading out to see which plants are in bloom.
There’s Nothing Like Counting Plants!
Do you want to get involved? Our very own Bow Valley Naturalists have been taking part in this species count since its inception, and are always glad to have new eyes in the field. To find out more about this or other terrific programs involving natural science in the Bow Valley, simply go to their website.
Here’s to hoping that our late spring will lead to an early, long and warm summer!