Thursday 9 January 2014

New Year's Plant Hunt: the results. 

We asked botanists to spend up to three hours listing any wild flowers and garden escapes in flower over New Year, but not species planted in gardens. Around 70 BSBI members responded to the call, and members of the public also contributed records via Facebook or on Twitter at BSBIPlantHunt.  We received 48 lists of plants in flower from 32 counties across Britain and Ireland: from Cornwall to Orkney and from Suffolk to Anglesey and Wexford in Ireland. The records covered a wide range of plants and most botanists were surprised at how many species they found in flower. 
Delairea odorata German-ivy flowering in Cornwall
Image: Elise O'Donnell

Plant Hunt Co-ordinator Tim Rich has now finished collating all our records, so here are our results:

·         221 species in flower, of which:
·         164 species are native to Britain and Ireland (about 10% of our native wild flowers), and
·         57 species are non-native or escaped from gardens.

The most commonly recorded species were Groundsel (40 out of 48 records = 83%), Daisy (81%) and Dandelion (69%) which are well known to flower during the winter. Other species recorded in over half of the lists were Smooth Sowthistle, Annual Meadow Grass, Chickweed, Shepherd’s Purse, Dwarf Spurge, Common Field-speedwell and Red Deadnettle. Gorse, well known to flower all year, was recorded in 44% of the lists.  In contrast, another 104 species were only recorded once; these are the more unusual occurrences of plants flowering out of season. 

Erodium cicutarium Musk Stork's-bill in Lincs.
Image: Sarah Lambert
The most species found flowering during any one survey were jointly in Cardiff and Leicester (66 in flower). 15 lists had more than 30 species recorded flowering whilst 14 had fewer than 10 species. 

In general, more species were recorded in the south compared to the north, and more species were recorded in towns and cities, where there are more weeds and the temperatures are slightly warmer.  The least number flowering (2 species) were recorded in the Outer Hebrides and Central Wales.  Amongst the interesting records were a first record of Round-leaved Crane’s-bill in Leicester, and a second record of Musk Stork’s-bill in Lincolnshire. 


  1. I found almost nothing and my total was too pathetic to publish !! Glad others did better though :)

    1. Zero returns are hugely important in this kind of survey, especially if you put the effort in already!

  2. Many thanks to everyone who took part - I still cannot quite believe how many species have been found in flower - as I added the data into the spreadsheet the numbers kept growing and growing (or should I say blossoming and blossoming). An amazing response.
    If we can record the same areas in the same way next year to get comparable results it will become a very interesting long term project. So if you didn't join in this year, there is always next!

    1. Hi Tim, I made it my New Year's resolution to campaign against people using spreadsheets to maintain records. You would not believe how much trouble it causes. Don't take short cuts, use a database.
      Having got that off my chest, it's a great project and I really should try to be in the UK at New Year next year.

    2. Hi Tim, my New Year's resolution is to campaign against the use of spreadsheets to maintain records. You would not believe all the problems it causes. Don't take short cuts use a database!
      Having got this off my chest, the BSBIPlantHunt is a great little project and I'll have to conspire to be in the UK next New Year.

  3. I decided to limit New Year recording to my home tetrad SD40D (in vc59 South Lancashire) and will repeat the process each year on the same route for as long as still ambulant!

  4. Great to see all the results! My MSc students and I are going to do a belated hunt on University of Reading campus next week, the results will not be comparable due to later date but will be interesting to see what we find! Dr M

  5. I wasn't aware of this so didn't take part but Cambridge Natural History Society were out for about 3 hours on New Year's Day and found 36 species in flower in TL45 (North-west Cambridge). I'm also keeping list for the Wild Flower Society's Winter Flower Hunt, of things in flower in December, January and February. Monica

  6. It's great to see these stats from the plant hunt. I'm glad I took part and will endeavour to repeat the same walk in the next plant hunt.

  7. A rather circuitous account of my own hunt on New Year's Day . Apologies if too little botany, but my blog audience are largely OpenStreetMappers.

    Very pleased to find 40 plants in total. Apparently in 3 monads SK5438, SK5439 and SK5440, across 2 tetrads in 2 octads.

    @QuentinGroom note all my stuff went directly into a DB (SQLlite on the phone & then to Observados database), but had to download, put into Postgres to do WGS84 to OSGB36 projections and then create a CSV file for Tim!


Please leave a comment!