Wednesday, 30 December 2015

What’s flowering right now near where you live?

Image courtesy of Floral Images
One of the best ways to improve your botanical ID skills is to keep a close eye on your local patch and note what you see in flower, even on a quick walk to the shops. And a good way to keep those ID skills sharp over winter is to keep right on looking and recording, because there is nearly always something in flower, especially after a warm autumn such as we’ve enjoyed this year. 

So it was great to hear recently from Monica Frisch in Cambridge who has long been keeping her eyes open during winter! Over to Monica, who has been out winter botanising in the run-up to the New Year Plant Hunt:

"Since I started keeping lists as part of the Wild Flower Society's Winter Months' Hunt for plants in flower during December, January and February, I've discovered just how many plants will continue flowering if the weather is mild, or if they get going early. It gives an objective to a winter walk, and one learns more about which plants flower when. 

White dead-nettle
Image courtesy of Floral Images
"So some, such as goosegrass or stinging nettle can be found, and identified all year round, but only flower for a much shorter period. Others, such as daisies, dandelions, shepherd's purse and white dead-nettle, seem to be in flower in every month of the year.

"On 19th December I went out looking for plants for the first time this month – it has been wet a lot of the time and the short days preclude evening botanising – and have come home after a couple of hours with a list of 25 species. My route was suburban southern Cambridge, about 2 ½ miles round trip from my house, and most of the plants were, as one might expect, weedy species, including all those mentioned above. And all were, I think, species which either flower all the year round or have a long flowering period. None was a spring thing appearing early, though I did see (but not count) winter aconites in flower in one garden!

Fox-and-cubs, Cherry Hinton High St.
Cambridge. 19/12/2015
Image: M. Frisch
"But there was one unexpected, though not rare, plant which always gives me pleasure when I find it: Fox-and-cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca. It is such a glorious colour and I don't come across it that often, though I have found it on previous occasions in suburban areas. This one was growing in a grassy area just off Cherry Hinton High Street.

"Last year's tally for December was 25 species, but not the same 25 species, so I feel I have got off to a good start. In total I recorded 54 species in flower in December 2014, January or February 2015, 12 of which I've found in flower every winter since I started in December 2009. This is less than in 2013-14 when I recorded 68 species – probably because I got out less last year as my mother needed more care following a fall. I shall make an effort to get out more this winter, or at least to look seriously for plants when I do get out, and shall see how this year's list compares".

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