What is the average first day for tulips to sprout in Chicago? We can find out with some historical photo research.
Every year tulips are abounding on the medians of busy downtown Michigan Avenue. When the tulips come out I take a photo of the initial buds breaking the ground. This spring tradition of photographing the tulip buds started for me in 2010. Almost every year I’ve captured the flowers coming out.
Let’s take the dates of those photos and find the average day when tulips break ground.
Excluding this unusual year with tulips in February, we have the following dates for the first tulips sprouting:
- March 8, 2016
- March 8, 2015
- April 10, 2014
- April 1, 2013
- March 19, 2010
According to my photos, the average first day that tulips break ground in Chicago is March 21.
Thus, the tulips this year are exactly one month early. The earliest they ever came before this year was March 8th. We beat that record by two weeks.
Extended research beyond my photos
It’s too bad that I didn’t take any photos of the budding flowers in 2011 and 2012. But, we can still try to get dates for these missing years by search on Flickr.
Flickr has a great advanced search feature. You can search for photos within a specific timeframe.
The first photos of tulips in Chicago for every year from 2005 to 2012:
March 16, 2011
Budding on Michigan Avenue. Funny how this photo by photo29 looks very much like the ones I take on Michigan Avenue.
March 19, 2010
My photo shown earlier in this post.
March 24, 2009
Budding at Chicago Botanic Gardens. I have a hard time including the Botanic Gardens, because that’s quite a bit further north, and is in a very tended high-end garden. But there we go.
April 19, 2008
Full-grown tulips in a street garden bed. Kinda looks like it’s by the Harold Washington Library.
February 27, 2007
Full flowers on Michigan Avenue
February 23, 2005
Full flowers somewhere downtown
Tulips have broken ground four of these seven years! Perhaps a February time for tulips in Chicago isn’t so odd after all.
If we average all the days from these 13 years from 2005 to 2017, the average first day for tulips in Chicago is March 11th. This a rough estimate, because some of the dates are when full-grown tulips were first photographed.
March 11 or March 21?
You can take the wider view of March 11th based on both my and other’s photos over 13 years. Or March 21 as the day based on just my photos from five years.