Friday, 9 January 2015

New Year Plant Hunt 2015: the results

Creeping Buttercup, Buxton, Derbyshire 1/1/2015
Image: J. Mortin
Drumroll please - BSBI is delighted to publish the results of this year's New Year Plant Hunt. Tim and Ryan emerged from yesterday's marathon data analysis session, exhausted and gasping for tea - but Ian, Sarah and I were waiting for them! We couldn't wait to hear their analysis and then all start working out how to communicate the results to everyone. 

Cue several hours of "does the data support that point" and "is recorder bias at play on this one?" - nobody flounced off when their ideas were challenged, but a fly on the wall would have been reaching for the earmuffs at a few points yesterday evening...

So, we have lovingly (if noisily) crafted this report for you, and for our friends in the media who are keen to hear these amazing results:


Botanist & Gorse, Leicester, 4/1/2015
Image: L. Marsh
The results are in for BSBI’s fourth New Year Plant Hunt, when wildflower enthusiasts across Britain and Ireland head out over the holidays and see what is in bloom in their local patch. We combine this traditional midwinter activity with C21st technology and use Twitter, Facebook and email to share photographs and observations, and we encourage people to get in touch if they need help in identifying a plant. 

Dr Tim Rich, Plant Hunt co-founder, said “With 2014 being the warmest year on record, we were expecting lots of wild flowers still to be in bloom over New Year. What took us all by surprise was quite how many people were happy to go out and look for them!” Plant lovers spent up to three hours between 1st and 4th January hunting for wild plants in flower and we’d like to say a huge thank you to all of them for contributing to these amazing results: 
  • A total of 2,908 records of plants in flower from across Britain and Ireland.
  • We received 143 lists - around half of them contained 20 or more plants in flower.
  • A stunning 368 different species were recorded in flower.

Hogweed, Wye NNR, 1/1/2015
Image: A. Gay  
Tim said “368 species in flower is an unprecedented 15% of the flowering plants in Britain and Ireland:  the books suggest there should only be 20-30 species in flower. The most commonly recorded plants were Daisy and Dandelion, each of which was recorded in 115 lists (75%). However, only 12 (3%) species were recorded in more than half of the lists, and most were only rarely found in flower: 160 (43%) species were only recorded in flower once, and 60 (16%) were only recorded twice. It was quite varied from site to site.”

 “As expected, the mild south and west of Britain had the highest numbers of species still in flower, but we also had lists of over 50 species from the east and north of England, and an amazing 39 flowering in Edinburgh. We thought that the snow and hard frosts before Christmas would have finished most flowering in the north but it seems not to be the case (tough lot, those northerners!). In terms of absolute numbers, Cardiff won (it was joint winner last year) with 71 species in flower and Cornwall came second with 70 species in flower”. 

Corn Marigold, VC59 3/1/2015
Image: P. Gately
Ryan Clark, who co-ordinated the New Year Plant Hunt this year, said “It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to the Moray Firth and Norfolk to Donegal. 21 of the lists were from Ireland, and these had consistently high numbers of plants in flower too, with an average of about 20 – this was almost exactly on a par with Britain. The highest count in Ireland was 40 species flowering on Bull Island, in Dublin Bay, by BSBI’s Irish Officer Maria Long and fellow botanists. The west of Ireland also fared well, with Strawberry Tree in flower near Killarney, Co. Kerry”.

Sometimes you need to zoom in!
Dock, Donegal 4/1/2015
Image: O. Duffy
Ryan analysed the records to see which plants were growing where. He said “As in previous years, it was clear that urban areas tended to have more species in flower than rural areas. This is to be expected: there are more sheltered corners and disturbed ground with wild flowers with a short life cycle and high seed production (you won’t catch us calling them weeds!) and plants spreading out from gardens. “

“Around one third of the plants in flower proved to be species not native to Britain and Ireland, which may have escaped from gardens or cultivation. Plants from warmer climates may be continuing to flower in the mild autumn weather before winter frosts knock them back.”

Primrose, Wye NNR, 1/1/2015
Image: A. Gay
Do the numbers of plants in flower this New Year indicate an early spring? Tim and Ryan concluded “Sadly, there does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring, although a few spring-flowering species like Lesser Celandine were quite widely recorded. Only 5 % of the species recorded were spring-flowering native specialists, such as Dog's Mercury, and half of the records of spring flowering plants were from just three species: Hazel, Lesser Celandine and Primrose.”


Ryan Clark, New Year Plant Hunt Co-ordinator
Image courtesy R. Clark
Dr Sarah Whild, who co-founded the Plant Hunt with Tim in 2012, said “The total of 368 wild plants in flower this year is much higher than the 222 recorded over the 2014 New Year, mainly due to the increase in the number of botanists looking for them! I’m delighted to see the Plant Hunt blossoming and even inspiring other countries to follow suit, with The Netherlands launching their own Plant Hunt this year!”

So, that's this year's report and I'm handing over now to Ryan, our amazing New Year Plant Hunt Co-ordinator. And here are Tim's comments on Ryan, verbatim: "he is a hero!" and "fantastic work!".

Ryan will be blogging on these pages - probably at 2pm today - so you can read his thoughts on these results. 

Don't forget that you can use the comments box below to ask Ryan any questions. 

And thanks again to all of you who took part.