Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Botanical Society Plant Hunt

Two of our members took part in the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) New Year Plant Hunt. Wildflower enthusiasts across Britain and Ireland headed out to see what was in bloom in their local patch.

Red Campion: an "Autumn Straggler"
Photo: Lliam Rooney

More than 850 plant-lovers spent up to three hours between 1st and 4th January hunting for wild plants in flower:

A total of 8,568 records of plants in flower from across Britain and Ireland.
A stunning 612 different species were found to be in flower, compared to 368 last year.
We received more than 400 lists - around half of them contained 20 or more species.

Ryan Clark, who co-ordinated the New Year Plant Hunt, said “It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to Shetland and Norfolk to Donegal. As expected, the milder south and west of Britain had the highest numbers of species still in flower, but we also had more than 60 species reported blooming in Edinburgh. Lists from Ireland also had consistently high numbers of plants in flower at New Year”.

Do the numbers of plants flowering this New Year herald an early spring? 

BSBI’s Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker said “There does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring. Spring-flowering specialists, such as Lesser Celandine, Cow Parsley and Sweet Violet, were widely recorded but they make up less than a fifth of the total. At least three quarters of the plants recorded were ‘Autumn Stragglers’ like Yarrow, Red Campion and Red Dead-nettle that had carried on flowering in the absence of a hard frost. The two most commonly recorded plants were Daisy and Dandelion – which we would expect to be flowering at this time of year. Perhaps more surprising was Hawthorn in bloom!"

Hawthorn in bloom
Photo: Marc Cruise

612 species in flower represents about a quarter of the species that occur regularly in Britain and Ireland. A number of these are aliens from warmer climates that may have escaped from gardens or cultivation and are continuing to flower until winter frosts knock them back.

As in previous years, urban areas tended to have more species in flower than rural areas. This is to be expected: there are more sheltered and disturbed areas with warm micro-climates where native and alien plants, including garden escapes, can thrive.

Kevin said “Conventional wisdom on what should flower when is clearly out of date, and for many alien plants we simply don’t have good data on peak flowering times. The New Year Plant Hunt results will help provide an up-to-date picture of what’s going on. Many thanks to all the volunteers who contributed to New Year Plant Hunt 2016”.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't aware of this plant hunt but I have been keeping a note of flowers seen this month. Most of these were not unexpected but I was surprised to find a specimen of kidney vetch in flower at Red Rocks on January 4th.