Indiana Backyard Observers

Select Plants

Select plant species to observe.

Choose plant species from the Indiana Backyard Observer plant list or select other species from the Nature’s Notebook Plants and Animals list.

You will observe the same individual plants each time you visit your site. For example, you should observe the same red maple in your back yard all through the year. To begin with, only choose 4-6 conveniently located plants that have interest to you. Note that smaller plants are easier to observer than the tallest of trees. What ever you choose, you'll need to be able to identify the species name of any plants you want to observe.

Plant ID tips:

  • Search in a field guide. You may be able to find one at a public library if you don't have one at home.

  • Use an online plant ID tool.

  • Take pictures of the plant from many angles, take close-ups of the buds, branches, leaves and flowers. Then email for help.

Watch the video

Read the transcipt

Once again, my name is Amelia Auberry, and I’m a volunteer for Indiana Phenology.

In this video, we will talk about the process and guidelines for picking plants to observe, locating them on your site, and marking their locations.

There are three steps to selecting plants.

First, pick the species you want to observe from the list available on the Nature’s Notebook website.

Secondly, locate individual plants of those species that you picked in your site.

Thirdly, put markers on the plants that you choose for your site, so that you cou- you know where they are later.

Ok, first I will tell you how to look up plants to observe on the Nature’s Notebook website.

Start on the main Nature’s Notebook web-page, and go to your observation deck.

To do this, you log in and click on “My Observation Deck.”

From here, click on “The Plants and Animals” button on the right side of the screen (which I circled with an oval).

This is the search page for plants and animals.

You can put in the common or scientific name of a plant into the search box on the left. Click the search button to check if a species is available.

You can also scroll through pictures and see if you recognize a plant you want to observe.

To see all the species available for Indiana, check off the box for our state and click the search button.

As a side note, the process for observing animals is different.

For animals, you create a checklist of animal species instead of observing the same individual animals; you look for each of those animal species on your checklist each time you visit your site.

We would like for you at- at Indiana Phenology, to also pick at least one of the plants off of our focal plants list.

If you do not have a plant species in mind, this list is also a good way to direct your searches.

There are more than sixteen-hundred plants and animals to choose from in total to observe, including the focal plants.

The focal plants include trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

We picked these because they're common, they're native to Indiana, and they're interesting to look at.

Here are the trees on our focal list.

From left to right and top to bottom they are: Hickory, Oak, Maple, Tulip Tree and Black Walnut.

And here are the shrubs and flowering plants on our focal list: goldenrod, milkweed, serviceberry, redbud and purple coneflower

After you have looked up possible species you want to observe on the Nature’s Notebook search page and/or on the focal plant list, walk around your site to look for individuals of the species you picked.

If you don’t see any of those plants on your site then um... refer back to the two lists, and select different species from them.

Both the site and the list will have pictures and/or descriptions of each plant to make them easier to identify.

Also, be sure to choose plants that have personal interest to you, and/or are convenient for you to observe.

For example, do you have a common sunflower growing in your garden five feet away?

Then choose that plant!

It’s on the Nature’s Notebook list, has an interesting appearance, and is close to where you are.

Here are three possible options for marking the locations of your plants.

You could tie a strip of cloth on or next to a plant.

You could place a metal marker in the ground by the plant.

Or you could place a stick in the ground by the plant.

And here are pictures of the three possible options for marking the location of your plants.

Number one is a picture of a tide strip of cloth.

Number two is a picture of a stick in the ground.

And number three is a picture of a metal marker.

The plants you pick should be interesting and familiar to you personally.

If you can, try to select plants to observe that are not right next to one another.

We would like you to space out plants of the same species, because we want to see if they go through their phenophases at different timings.

In other words, you can capture the individual variation in phenological events, which can produce a more accurate picture of the timing of phenophases for a species at your site.

I did not mention this distinction before, but some plants you observe, such as grasses and some flowers, are observed as one patch.

The details about this species on the Nature’s Notebook site indicate which plants may be observed as patches.

If you are unsure of how big to go, our guidelines are that you make a small site, one with only a few plants and species. Specifically, you can start with 4 to 6 individual plants representing only 2 to 3 species.

Also, keep in mind that shorter plants are easier to observe than really tall trees.

And that’s how you select your plants!


Indiana Phenology Plant List

Choose at least one plant from this list, if possible. Having species that everyone across Indiana is observing helps us explore how trends vary by region.

Use this field guide to help you identify plants from the Indiana Phenology plant list.