What is Phenology?

Plants and animals respond to environmental cues such as temperature changes, amount of sunlight or day length or precipitation changes.

Phenology is the science of the synchronization or timing of natural events in the plant and animal world as they correspond either to the seasons or certain times of the year. 

Why are phenological observations important to the Menominee Nation?

The Menominee have used nature’s calendar for hundreds of years with many cultural practices, ceremonies and rituals centered around such phenological events as the change of seasons, ripening of berries, and bird/animal/fish migrations or spawning times. One example is that the harvest of black ash for basket making usually coincides with the ripening of wild strawberries.  A change in this phenological event has already been observed by the black ash bark harvesters as the ​

The Menominee have also named the monthly full-moon cycles after certain phenological events. For example, April is the Sugar Making Moon, May is the Budding Moon, June is the Strawberry Moon, August is the Blueberry Moon, September is the Rice Threshing Moon and October is the Falling Leaves Moon.

Common phenology terms

Phenophase – An observable stage or phase in the annual life cycle of a plant or animal that can be defined by a start and end point. Phenophases generally have a duration of a few days or weeks. Examples include the period over which newly emerging leaves are visible, or the period over which open flowers are present on a plant. (See also phenological event) (Note: The definition of the term “phenophase” has not yet been standardized and varies among scientists. The definition presented here reflects usage of the term on the USA-NPN website.) View on Nature’s Notebook

Fruit – the mature, ripened ovary of a seed plant, and the structures that are attached, accompany and ripen with the ovary. View on Nature’s Notebook

Flower – The organ of a plant that facilitates reproduction. Responsible for attracting pollinators. View on Nature’s Notebook

View more on the Nature’s Notebook glossary page

Learning Path

Learn more about the on-campus Learning Path and how you can get involved in collecting phenological data

Research Plots

Learn about how SDI is collecting data from forest plots to measure the pulse of the forest.

Phenology Blogs

Read more about our Phenology projects from the students conducting the research.