What is PlantWatch?

Two girls looking at ferns

The PlantWatch program enables citizen scientists to get involved by recording flowering times for selected plant species and reporting these dates to researchers, who work to identify ecological changes that may be affecting our environment. When you submit your data it is added to Web map showing bloom dates across Canada. Your observations make a difference!


Why Watch Plants?

Canadians are fortunate to live in a country with a wide variety of plant species. By participating in PlantWatch, you can learn more about our country’s botanical diversity, while helping scientists track the effects of global warming and climate change in Canada.

The plants chosen for this guide bloom every spring, largely in response to rising temperatures. However, some species are flowering almost a month earlier than they were a century ago! Scientists believe climate change is affecting blooming times – a trend that is continuing. They predict that the greatest increases in temperature will be in Western and Northern Canada, while some parts of Eastern Canada actually may be cooling. By reporting on the PlantWatch species found in your community, you can help researchers discover how common plants are responding to climate change and track where changes are taking place in Canada, and at what rate.


About PlantWatching

PlantWatching has a long tradition and rich history. In 1750 the Swedish scientist and artist Linnaeus turned plantwatching into a systematic science. He made calendars of flowering times for 18 places in Sweden, while also noting the exact climatic conditions at these times. This was the foundation of modern plant phenology, which spread to many European countries and revealed, over the centuries, that some spring wildflowers are super-sensitive weather instruments!

PlantWatch has its roots in earlier Canadian programs dedicated to plantwatching. Over one hundred years ago, Nova Scotia’s Superintendent of education, Dr. Alexander H. MacKay had students collect plant, animal, agricultural and weather phenology from 1897 to1923. Then in 1987, the Alberta Wildflower Survey started and blossomed into a program that initiated Alberta PlantWatch. The Alberta program then advised in the creation of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland PlantWatch. Today there are PlantWatch programs in each province and territory!