Phenology is Alive and Well – Report #1

Lesser Periwinkles ©2016 Bo Mackison

May 1, 2016

Owen Conservation Park, west side of Madison, Wisconsin

Start: 8:10 am
cloudy 43˚F
wind 10 mph NE
barometric pressure 30.10
humidity 80%

hear Woodpeckers, species unknown
Fiddle heads emerging
Trout lilies in full bloom
Jack in the pulpits, just emerging from earth
Honeysuckle, in tight bud
Chokecherry, leaves clustered
Robins, common
Bluejay, male adult
Lesser periwinkle (vinca) in moderate bloom
Dutchman’s breeches, close to full bloom
Virginia bluebell, full bloom
False solomon seal emerging
Wood anemone in bloom, moderate show
Bloodroot, emerging foliage
Yellow bellwort, in moderate bloom
Columbine emerging
Creeping charlie (ground ivy, spreading mint) dense blooms, disturbed ground near trail
Wild geranium (potted geranium) in moderate bloom
Maple tree shoots, six inches high, thick
Crabapple trees, several varieties, in moderate bloom


Golden Alexanders ©2016 Bo Mackison

Common blue violets (wood violet, wooly blue violet)  in bloom, profuse
Garlic mustard in bloom (invasive weed threat)
Golden alexanders, moderate bloom
May apples, foliage emerging, no blooms – love these clusters of green umbrellas
rafter of wild turkeys – one adult male, three adult females
Confederate violets (blue and white variation of common purple) uncommon
White oak trees with emerging leaves
Ironwood trees, partially open leaves, still curled
Red maples, partially opened leaves
Silver maples, partially open leaves
Sumac, 5 ft high “sticks” with emerging red leaves
second rafter of wild turkeys – one adult male, five adult females


Rafter of turkeys ©2016 Bo Macksion

Red wing blackbirds, common
Cardinals, a pair
Mallards, pair in water
Yellow warbler


9:43 am
46˚F cloudy
wind 5 mph E
humidity 72%


Twice a week phenology reports in woodland and prairie; once a week reports from pond. At Owen Conservation Park, Madison Wisconsin

Phenology is the study of plant and animals and their cycles influenced by climate and seasonal change, i.e., birds nesting/migrating,  flowers blooming, trees leafing.


Three Coneflowers


Three Coneflowers ©2012 Bo Mackison

We all walk in mysteries. We do not know what is stirring in the atmosphere that surrounds us. ~ Goethe

As I hurry about, I continue to cross off wedding items on my brain list — press dress, pick up extra chairs, need to make lunch for nine, let’s see, rehearsal is at 4, better leave at 3, remember Highway 32 closed at Green Crossing, need to detour, pack the sunscreen and sun hats, and water, bring water bottles, gonna be near 100˚, need to wrap the present yet . . .

It was a gift of calming to take my early morning walk, and think about the beauty of these nearly wilted coneflowers, still growing, still filled with a wabi-sabi beauty as they grow in the midst of a drought. Time moves on, moment by moment.

There is beauty all around us. Beauty in the many mysteries we walk through on a daily basis. Beauty in the many actions we plan and accomplish. Beauty and love in the end product.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is finally watching the clock. Son’s wedding countdown as of this posting: 30 hours. 🙂

Wildflowers in the Desert

White Tackstem

White Tackstem © 2012 Bo Mackison

To see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.  ~ William Blake

My first spring living in the desert, the spring of 2011, was a spring of drought and no wildflowers. The cactus still bloomed, and I was thrilled at the sight of those flowers, but I never did see wildflowers in the depths of the desert, and I saw only a few specimens in the various irrigated botanical gardens in the Tucson area.

So it is with great pleasure, this spring, that I walk on ancient trails in the desert and see splashes of wildflower color almost everywhere I look. Perhaps what is more amazing, last year I thought the desert lovely in its drought induced colors of browns and faded greens. I did not wish for more, because I did not know that more existed. I am glad I saw the naked, dry desert, flower-less, for that is the desert I fell in love with. And this year’s desert bounty, flowery splashes of yellows and oranges, purples and blues, is a gift unexpected, and so cherished that much more.

Jone's Blazing Star

Jone's Blazing Star © 2012 Bo Mackison

Here are but a few of the many wildflowers I captured in my heart, and also with my camera. I apologize now if I have wrongly identified any of these beauties – I suspect I will do so quite often. The desert in filled with wildflowers that I have never seen, no matter how common they may be to real desert dwellers, and though I enjoy discovering the names of the various flowers, I will make beginner’s mistakes.

Nevertheless, I always feel a bit more connected to a flower when I can hail it by its name and so I will make the effort to learn the native names, sometimes humorous, sometimes descriptive, sometimes vainly named by its human ‘discoverer’.

Notch-Leaf Scorpion-Weed

Notch-Leaf Scorpion-Weed © 2012 Bo Mackison

One thing I noticed immediately about many of the desert flowers. Some are very small, perhaps a half inch or less in diameter. A carpet of these tiny flowers is easily seen, but an isolated one or two are treasures easily missed. I discovered that by looking closely at the various surfaces in the desert  — rocky cliffs, gravelly washes, gritty earth stretching into the shadows of the mountains — I see wildflowers that could be easily passed and never discovered.

Poppies and Pollen

Poppies and Pollen © 2012 Bo Mackison

I am filled with great joy when I can simply be still in this desert, perhaps standing in a bit of shade of a palo verde or a mesquite, watching and listening. Where there are patches of flowers, there are frequently a few bees humming and buzzing about, each bee visiting the blossoms and dancing that intricate dance of pollination. Imagine being a bee and visiting an arroyo filled with the tiniest of these flowers. An endless undertaking, quite like counting the grains of sand on the desert floor.

I am filled with a deep gratitude that I have the opportunity to walk amidst the glories of the desert – in awe of this seemingly endless desert filled with the tiniest of gifts.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.



Devil’s Paintbrush

Orange Hawkweed

Orange Hawkweed © 2008 Bo Mackison

Orange Hawkweed is often referred to as Devil’s Paintbrush. It was named so by farmers, who see the weedy flower as being a troublesome beauty. It naturalized from Europe, probably in the 17th century mixed in with seed crops, and spreads quite aggressively and quickly, so it is considered ecologically invasive.

Ox Eye Daisies and Orange Hawkweed

Ox Eye Daisies and Orange Hawkweed © 2008 Bo Mackison

It’s orange color, making it stand out against the many yellow flowers found blooming at this time, adds to the open prairie’s color, but also chokes out native plants that cannot compete. The Hawkweed secretes a toxic substance that inhibits many flowers from growing very near.

Obviously the equally invasive ox-eye daisy doesn’t mind too much. How come so many of the flowers I see seem to be of the invasive sort? I have noticed over the years – I’ve been cataloguing wildflowers in Wisconsin since 1977 – that I am seeing the native flowers, but many in lesser numbers.

Orange Hawkweed Buds

Orange Hawkweed Buds © 2008 Bo Mackison

Here is the Orange Hawkweed in bud. It does make for a rather fancy weed. Its flowers are short lasting, each blossom lasting only one day.

These photos were taken along the shoreline of Green Bay in Peninsula State Park near Fish Creek, Wisconsin. The over-welcome visitors are being monitored by park rangers, and so far 3 flowers have made the removal list. (Garlic Mustard, Eurasian Honeysuckle and Phragmites)

More Door County Wildflowers

Three more wildflowers that I photographed last weekend in Door County.


Gaywings © 2008 Bo Mackison

This little wildflower is Gaywings, also called Fringed Polygala, and it looks to me like a miniature airplane, grounded after a thunderstorm. It closely resembles an orchid, but is a member of the milkwort family. Folklore has it that if a tea made from the plant was consumed by nursing mothers or the plant was fed to cows, it would increase milk production. Found in northeast to north-central US and eastern Canada, it blooms in May and June.

Small-Flowered Crowfoot

Small-Flowered Crowfoot © 2008 Bo Mackison

The Small-Flowered Crowfoot is a buttercup, but doesn’t much look like one except that it has many separate stamens and pistils. It is poisonous, though some Native American tribes pulverized the root and soaked it in water to make an antiseptic to cleanse wounds. The greenish flower is less than an inch in diameter and grows near the ground, so it is easy to miss. It blooms May through early June.

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold © 2008 Bo Mackison

The Marsh Marigold is one of only a few wildflowers that can grow in the middle of a stream. It has been known to grow so profusely as to give the water a yellowish glow. It was used medicinally to cure colds, anemia and convulsions, though the plant contains toxic glycosides which are only made harmless upon cooking. The flower blossoms make a sweet wine and they can also be used as a yellow dye. It blooms from late April through June.