Observers make science happen.
Pesky Plant Trackers are observing the life cycles of wild parsnip and knotweed. Here are some of their photos from across Minnesota.
What are you seeing? Share your image on this blog by emailing [email protected] with "Blog" in the subject line.
Charlie observes signs of frost kill
October 19, 2021
Q: Do you see leaves?
A: Yes, one or more live, fully unfolded leaves are still visible on this patch of knotweed. Keep checking on your plant about once a week so you can observe the end of the 'Leaves' phenophase.
Q: When am I done observing?
A: Wrap up your season when you are ready. There is no universal end date. When the plant (or patch) you observe dies or goes dormant, that is a good time to pause until next year.
Crystal sees flowers drop, but no fruits forming
October 15, 2021
Q: One expects to see fruits form after flowers, correct?
A: Yes in general, but there are cases when this doesn't happen. When knotweed plants are under stress, they may drop flowers before fruits develop. Crystal is one of several observers who has waited for fruits but is not seeing them.
Q: Should you worry that fruits developed and fell off before you saw them?
A: No, not if you observe carefully every week and know how to identify fruits (click here for photo of unripe fruit). It takes 2-3 weeks for fruits to form. Therefore, your weekly routine will give you opportunity to see fruits if they are in fact present.
Barb notices bare flower structures, only a few fruits
October 9, 2021
It is not unusual for knotweed flowers to fall before developing into fruits, or for unripe fruits to fall before ripening. Some observers may ask, won't that mean I never get to observe the last two phenophases, 'Ripe fruits' and 'Recent fruit drop'? Yes, possibly, but that's okay. Your records of what you see with your own eyes in the real world are much more valuable than generalized ideas of what's expected. When you report based on evidence you see, you're doing valuable science. Thanks, Barbara, for these photos!
Laurie sees fruits & dead flowers on knotweed
September 28, 2021
Based on what is seen in this photo (click to enlarge), an observer could report on phenophases as follows:
- Leaves? Yes
- Flowers or flower buds? No (The rusty-colored structures are dead flowers. They are not fresh.)
- Open flowers? No
- Fruits? Yes (The pale green tear-dropped shapes are unripe fruits.)
- Ripe fruits? No
Margaret decides their knotweed is Bohemian, not Japanese
September 26, 2021
Kudos to observer Margaret, who gathered different kinds of information and noticed that their knotweed is Bohemian, not Japanese. Some of the clues they used were:
- Primary evidence: Conspicuous stamens visible in open flowers (see image below)
- Supporting evidence: Leaf shape is floppy without flat base
- Supporting evidence: The overall stand is tall, over 10 feet
So what should Margaret do, now that the plant is identified?
- If you have been collecting data on paper datasheets, you are now ready to enter your observations online. The steps are:
- If you have not already done so, use the Nature's Notebook website to add your site to your account. (Watch a how-to video.)
- Then add your plant to that site, with the correct species identification. (Watch a how-to video.)
- Next, transcribe records from your paper datasheets to the website. (Watch a how-to video.) or the mobile app. If you do this on the mobile app rather than the website, be careful to select the correct data for every observation. You cannot change the date of an observation after submitting it.
- If you have been collecting data in Nature's Notebook (app or website), but the species was misidentified, here are steps to take:
- This kind of change must be handled by Nature's Notebook staff.
- Take these steps to alert Nature's Notebook staff:
- Go to your Observation Deck and scroll down.
- Select the plant in question and click "Add or Edit Plants".
- On the "Add or Edit Plants" page, make sure you are editing the correct plant (based on the site and nickname)
- Click the checkbox next to "Delete?". A popup window will appear, asking why you want to delete the plant.
- Select "Misidentified Species".
- You will be prompted to contact Nature's Notebook for more information. In your message, explain to Nature's Notebook staff that you are seeing evidence to change the species identification from Japanese to Bohemian.
Sue starts observing Bohemian knotweed
September 18, 2021
Do you see open flowers? Yes. Notice that the stalk is mostly bare, and several flowers have fallen off. This is common. When collecting data for Nature's Notebook, only assess parts of the plant that are still attached.
Is it too late to start observing knotweed in September? No. Observers may start whenever they are ready. For more about when to observe, see:
Do you see conspicuous stamen? Yes. Stamen are the long structures that extend beyond the petals. They are made up of filaments with anthers at the tip. When a knotweed has conspicuous stamen, it is not Japanese knotweed. It is probably Bohemian.
Abbie sees fruits on var. compacta knotweed
September 7, 2021
This plant is exhibiting advanced phenology that we expect with the compacta variety. For contrast, non-compacta plants are not yet showing fruit.
Make sure your Nature's Notebook records include information about what kind of plant you observe. This is critical for scientists to appropriately analyze your data and make useful inferences. Click here for instructions how to do this.
Karen Kay observes knotweed flower buds
August 12, 2021
Abbie checks for knotweed shoots
March 30, 2021
If possible, gently lift and then replace debris that could obstruct your view of shoots or early leaves. Materials such as dead leaves and other debris can play an important role for newly emerging plants by regulating their microclimate. Every site is slightly different so find a balance between detecting early signs of growth and leaving site conditions unchanged.