Frequently asked questions

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General questions about the project

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Can I meet the team and learn more before committing?

Yes! Join one of our informal Zoom gatherings to find out more, including how to participate.

Brew a cup of tea and bring your questions to the Zoom* room. The goals of this weekly "tea time" are to meet one another and field your questions about participating. (Expect an informational chat rather than a training workshop.) Everyone is welcome, whether you are new to this program or are actively tracking.

Dates: Tuesdays, August 4, 11, 18, and 25
Time: 3-4 pm
Host: Pesky Plant Trackers staff

* Zoom is a web-based video conferencing app. You will need to download the Zoom app if it is not already on your device.

How can I participate if I cannot find wild parsnip or Japanese knotweed?

While Pesky Plant Trackers focuses on only two plants, Nature's Notebook offers many ways to track seasonal change. In fact, you will find over 1,300 species of plants and animals to choose from in Nature's Notebook. Some of those species are of special concern and are the subject of national campaigns. Learn more here:

Also, keep your eyes trained to spot wild parsnip and Japanese knotweed. Pesky Plant Trackers is a multi-year program you can join any time.

About collecting data

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How do I count flower clusters after fruits start to appear?

When fruits start to appear, flower clusters with fruit can be excluded from your count of flower heads. The principle here is that a structure is a flower until it becomes a fruit, and then it is no longer a flower. It is a fruit.

Technically, fruits are present as soon as the flower’s ovary is fertilized, but often the ovary does not swell into something resembling a fruit for several weeks. Do not worry about missing this early stage and simply report fruits when you see the fruit as it begins to enlarge.

Should I observe first-year parsnip plants?

It is okay to observe first-year wild parsnip plants. It is always important to identify first-year wild parsnip plants because this keeps you safe from its toxic sap.

However, it is preferable to track older, flowering wild parsnip plants, if they are available and easy to observe. In this research, the most valuable information is when plants are forming flowers, fruits and seeds. First first-year plants will not go through these mature phenophases, and will only go through the phases of initial growth and leaves. That said, there is nothing wrong with collecting data on first-year wild parsnip plants.

About plant identification

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What about dwarf Japanese knotweed?

The dwarf variety of Japanese knotweed has smaller, rounder, thicker leaves and is shorter than non-dwarf plants, reaching 3 feet tall rather than 9 feet. For identification, see this page by Missouri Botanical Garden.

Because dwarf Japanese knotweed is not a distinct species, you can use Nature's Notebook to make observations. Please edit the plant details section to indicate that your plant is a dwarf variety. This is particularly important because dwarf and non-dwarf varieties are different in their phenology.

Can I use Nature's Notebook to observe Bohemian or Giant knotweed?

Currently, Japanese knotweed is the only member of the knotweed complex listed within Nature's Notebook. To track observations of Bohemian or Giant knotweed, use a paper datasheet (link to PDF below) rather than using the mobile app or the web-based form.

Nature's Notebook provides guidelines on this topic here:

Can I observe a plant if I am unsure what species it is?

Yes! To track a plant when you are not certain of its species, use a paper datasheet (link to PDF below) rather than using the mobile app or the web-based form.

Nature's Notebook provides guidelines on this topic here: