Saturday 2 January 2016

New Year Plant Hunt: Day Two

Plants in bloom at Glengarriff NR,
Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland
Image courtesy C. Heardman/Glengarriff NR
Phew, what a day! The New Year Plant Hunt Team has been rushed off its collective feet today - receiving all your lists and answering your questions about plant identifications

Some of you have also given us some insight into how you think recent weather and other factors have impacted on the plants you see regularly in your local patch. 

You are all helping us build up a clearer picture, especially those of you who have also taken part in previous Plant Hunts and can compare your lists over several years.

New Year Plant Hunters at Glengarriff NR
Image: Clare Heardman
Co-ordinator Ryan has been working incredibly hard all day inputting your records - 750 of them are now in the New Year Plant Hunt database. 

We have received lists from the most south-westerly parts of these islands. 

At Glengarriff Nature Reserve in Co. Cork, Republic of Ireland, BSBI County Recorder Clare and an "enthusiastic group of adults and children" went out in "full sunshine". (English botanists may want to check this unusual meteorological term in a dictionary). 

Gorse, recorded in many counties.
Here it is in bloom on the Sefton Coast, Lancs.
Image: Mary Dean
They recorded 46 species in flower, including two local specialities, Strawberry Tree and naturalised Fuchsia, neither of which was in flower for last year's Plant Hunt.  

On Guernsey, George Garnett braved outrageous winds to record any plants managing to flower and, like the fine young scientist he is, provided evidence - he videod the wind whipping some tussocks around - it was scary! Check out George's Twitter feed if you want to see the video clip.

In Wales, Prof John Warren braved rain to record 27 species blooming in Aberystwyth before the weather got the better of him while BSBI Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott and her team got 57 in North Wales. 

Ivy Broomrape in Somerset
Image: Helena Crouch
On the Sefton Coast (Lancs.), Mary and Rod enjoyed good weather and their list includes Gorse (above), while over in Co. Durham, Phil Gates spotted a population of more than 50 Cowslip plants and one of them was in flower (below). Helena Crouch and the Somerset Rare Plants group sent in a list of 65 species, including Ivy broomrape Orobanche hederae.

In Cambridgeshire, Jon Shanklin saw 39 species in bloom on a walk near Grantchester Meadows (half were in the nearby churchyard) and Chris Preston recorded 53 species from the "uber-ordinary streets" near where he lives in Cambridge.

A few very experienced botanists have been a bit naughty, nonchalantly asking if it's ok to include sporulating ferns on their lists. 

I suspect they are just teasing - they will be well aware that ferns produce spores but they don't flower, which is kind of a pre-requisite for inclusion in a hunt for plants in flower! You don't fool me for a minute Dr Trevor Dines! Or you, Eyebright expert Chris Metherell, but a good list all the same from you and your team up in the wintry wilds of Northumberland.  

Cowslip blooming in Co. Durham
Image: Phil Gates
From Scotland, records are in from Moray (eight species flowering, seen by first time Plant Hunter Ian), from Fife where Stuart found one bedraggled daisy, and several lists from Edinburgh, where Jim and his wife got 14 species including Hoary Mustard Hirschfeldia incana. 

It's unusually far north for this wool-alien, which hasn't been recorded in the area for over 30 years - this record will make a great new square on the plant's distribution map here

The image below left demonstrates how Jim took a really good look at this plant to make sure the ID was correct. I think he deserves some kind of prize for this ;-)

Jim checked various key characters to be sure of
his ID of Hirschfeldia incana
Image: Jim Gardner
Many people who would probably not consider themselves botanists have tweeted about the flowers they noticed as they walked the dog or parked the car at the supermarket. 

Some have mused on whether those plants are always in bloom around now and maybe they just haven't noticed before. Or wondered why something grows in one place and not another. And so another botanist is born...

Many of you are recording Yarrow in flower.
This one blooming at RSPB Minsmere 2/1/2016
Image: Anna Saltmarsh
It was my day to head out and enjoy a Plant Hunt in Leicester city centre with eight fellow members of the BSBI VC55 group. We followed the same route as in previous years and found 61 species or hybrids in bloom, mostly at the first (more recreational) of three urban sites and in the streets between. 

Our two usually reliable brownfield sites offered a valuable demonstration of ecological succession, one having scrubbed over (no human intervention) and one desolate (too much human intervention!) 

But everybody had a great time and my deepest thanks go to Ian Denholm, who stepped in to man the New Year Plant Hunt virtual desk alongside Ryan this afternoon, giving me a rare chance to do some actual field botany - thanks Ian!

We're at the halfway point now - let's hope tomorrow dawns fair for all our New Year Plant Hunters!

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