Wednesday 6 January 2016

Botanists of all ages join in New Year Plant Hunt 2016

"Six of the best from Barnaby"
Image: C. Booth
One of the nicest aspects of the New Year Plant Hunt for me was hearing from families who had been out hunting together, and especially from two young plant-hunters, Barnaby in Scotland and Elizabeth in England. 

Barnaby needed a little help in order to submit his records of six plants in bloom in Crieff, Scotland. He is three years old so Grandpa, who is a BSBI member, helped with some of the identifications and writing the email, but Barnaby recognised the Daisy and Dandelion all by himself. 

Barnaby was only able to spend ten minutes on his Plant Hunt, as he is currently engaged on important research into how high he can go on his swing, but we hope that he and Grandpa will be able to take part again next year.   

In Notts, Elizabeth Widdowson went out on a New Year Plant Hunt with her father, botanist Kevin Widdowson. They spotted three plants of Shepherd's-purse which seemed bigger than usual so they measured the plants very carefully.  One of them was 1 metre tall! 

Elizabeth holding the floppy plants
upright to measure them
Image courtesy of K. & A. Widdowson
They sent their photos and measurements to Dr Tim RichTim wrote the BSBI Handbook on Crucifers, the family of plants to which Shepherd's-purse belongs. He agreed that all three of Elizabeth's plants were bigger than the biggest ones he had measured for his Handbook.

Tim very kindly sent Elizabeth a message congratulating her on being "the measurer of the tallest Shepherd's-purse reported to date in the world"  and said she deserved double pocket money this month. 

Although Elizabeth was very busy with preparations for her seventh birthday party yesterday, she was kind enough to send this report for News & Views readers: 

"Me and daddy went on a walk by the river and it was rainy and muddy. I was helping my Daddy find some special plants and he said that they were called Shepherd's Purse. I found three plants and Daddy was happy. I had to help measure the plants and remember the numbers. We got very wet and Daddy carried me back to the car. 

Elizabeth measured this
Shepherd's-purse very carefully
Image courtesy of K. & A. Widdowson
"Daddy told his friends on his phone about it and they said I had found some very big plants and I was very excited. Daddy showed me his phone and a man said that my plant must be a world record. My Daddy told me that this man's name was Tim Rich and that he had written one of Daddy's plant books. This made me very happy and I am excited about telling my teacher at school".

Thank you very much to Elizabeth for telling us about her world record. We hope that she will find lots of nice plants this year (especially pink ones!). Kevin is very lucky to have such a helpful assistant. 

Kevin would also like to thank Dr Tim Rich for sending Elizabeth such an encouraging email, even if he did recommend double pocket money!

Elizabeth and other young botanists will be able to recognise the Shepherd's-purse plant by the little heart-shaped fruits. Let us know if you spot a really big plant and don't forget to take measurements and photographs, just like Elizabeth did!   

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