Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Plant Hunt: Day One

Hogweed blooming in Kent 1/1/2016
Image: Heather Silk
Records are starting to come in from today's New Year Plant Hunt. There are loads of them to process but a few surprises already!

Several very experienced plant hunters have been out today and found fewer species in bloom than they had expected, given the recent warm weather.

Tim Rich, New Year Plant Hunt co-founder whose lists of plants in flower are usually among the longest in the country, recorded 59 plants in the Cardiff area this year compared to 69 in 2015. 

Tim puts this down to a combination of recent weather and some of his favourite "ruderal" sites (where you find lots of weeds which may be in flower now) becoming scrubbed over or developed. 

For plants to count as "in bloom",
please check carefully for
actual flowering parts!
Image: R. Clark
Plant Hunt Co-ordinator Ryan Clark took advantage of a lull before he had to start inputting the first batch of records into the database. He went out Plant Hunting at Grangelands Nature Reserve in Bucks. but apparently it was bitterly cold and he only found 7 species in flower in the end. Ryan live-tweeted photos from the reserve and we could all see that he had gone the extra mile to find anything that might be in flower!

It's been great to see photos and observations of plants in bloom sent to us via Twitter by people having their first stab at a New Year Plant Hunt, or who took part last year and want to compare what they see this time around. Check out the BSBI Twitter feed for 100s of such examples!

From Ireland, lists have already been received from Cos. Dublin, Donegal, Kerry and Cork, and 14 species were spotted in bloom by Ciaran in Co. Wexford. More to follow once these records are processed.

Karen's star find: Common 
Centaury at the bus stop on 
her soggy way home today!
Image: K. Woolley
Back in Britain, Ian Denholm was also out today and found 27 species in flower in Herts. Several lists are in already in from Yorkshire and we have records in so far from as far north as Argyll and Roxburghshire - very well done to recorders in those two counties who braved foul weather to find a few well-frosted plants managing to flower. 

Knowing which few species were able to bloom today, or if nothing did in your patch, is just as valuable as a long list of what was in flower elsewhere. The aim of the Plant Hunt is, after all, to build up a clear picture across Britain and Ireland. But it's hardly surprising if there is a little friendly competition between some of our most experienced field botanists to get a "good list"!

Recording in the south-west didn't necessarily guarantee you good weather today. Karen in Devon, who became a BSBI member just the other week, got pretty wet recording 49 species (compared to 30 last year). Check out the list of blogs by BSBI members (on the right) to see the first batch of New Year Plant Hunt blogposts by Karen and by BSBI botanists in Gower and Co. Durham.  And here's a nice one from a non-member who lives in The Chilterns. 

Yellow-wort Blackstonia perfoliata 
blooming in Co. Durham 1/1/2016
Image: Phil Gates 
Wendy in Sussex almost doubled her list from last year and Anne on Jersey got 51 species - and they both managed to stay dry. They both also rewarded themselves by stopping the clock to head to the local pub - jolly good idea too!

Along the south coast of England, Dawn - winner of last year's Star Recorder prize - submitted her first list of 63 species in bloom in Sussex and shortly after that, Owen sent us a list of 77 plants in bloom around New Romney. An amazing total and Owen also wins a prize for first use of a grapnel on this year's New Year Plant Hunt!

In Shropshire, New Year Plant Hunt co-founder Dr Sarah Whild and her team found 69 species in flower. 

The highest total of the day was 78 species spotted by Clive and Liz in Gloucs. Their list included 2 species of Verbascum (Mulleins), 3 species of Senecio (Ragworts) and 3 species of Dock in flower. 

Roll on Day 2!