Wednesday 3 January 2018

New Year Plant Hunt 2018: Day Four

Gorse and one Sea Campion
Hartland Quay
Image: Sue Young
The fourth and final day of the New Year Plant Hunt and even though all the data are not through yet (the deadline for submission is midnight on Friday 5th January), we can already report:
  • 500+ species recorded so far (there were 529 last year).
  • 532 lists received so far compared to 462 last year.
  • 7,984 unique records logged so far compared to a total of 7,347 last year.
Ciara and Ellen are sifting through to remove any duplicates so these totals may change but already it looks as if at least 1,000 botanists took part!

          Crown Vetch spotted near Cardiff Bay
Image: Annie Irving
You can read first person accounts of what some plant hunters found in their blogposts. Check out Wendy's Uckfield Hunt, or Heather's report from Co. Durham, read what Steven found on Skye, what Sarah and Pete spotted in Lincs. or what Oli and David saw in Oxfordshire.

And we can announce a second New Year Plant Hunt prize-winner. Jessica Hamilton from Kerry won the prize on Saturday for the first flower spotted within minutes of the Plant Hunt starting. And today we decided to award the dedication prize to 13-year old naturalist Dara McAnulty who went out hunting with his family in really nasty weather in northern Ireland. They were all set to give up and record a nul count but they persevered and were rewarded with a bedraggled Hogweed and a drenched Daisy. Watch out for Jessica and Dara sharing their three botanical wishes for 2018 on these pages later this month.

Ladybirds expert Richard Comont keying out
plants in Malvern, with a little canine assistance
Image: Kate Ashbrook
There's still one local Plant Hunt to come - four of the eight members of the Plant Hunt support team (me, Ciara, Ellen and Richard) are based in Leics. and if we'd headed out to do our Hunt in the past four days, the enquiry desk would have been seriously under-staffed! 

So BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker gave us special dispensation to postpone our Hunt until Friday.

Kevin is the eighth member of the support team but his role doesn't start until Saturday, when all the data are in and he can get going on his analysis.

We're actually doing two Hunts on Friday, one rural and one urban, and we're looking forward to seeing how the counts differ in both places.

          Ivy-leaved Toadflax in Derbyshire
Image: Alan Roe
What have we learned from the national results you've already sent in?

Well so far, all the Top Twenty most frequently recorded plants are either autumn stragglers, all-year-rounders or winter specialists and the Top Five this year is the same as last year and in the same order: Daisy, Groundsel, Dandelion, Annual Meadow-grass and Gorse.

There are very few records of Sweet Violets, Primroses or Lesser Celandines so this abundance of flowers in bloom does not herald an early spring!

The surprise is really how many plants we are finding in bloom, despite some pretty nasty weather in recent weeks - remember that textbooks from a few decades ago led us to believe that there were only 20 or 30 wildflowers we were likely to see in bloom in midwinter.

Butcher's-broom flowering in Norfolk
Image: Ian Woodward
So, were the textbooks wrong, or were we just not looking closely enough before, or do we have evidence of climate change?

We'll have to wait for our Head of Science to tell us once all the results are in and he's had a chance to analyse them - watch this space.

Can we just close for now by thanking every single one of you who went out plant hunting and took the time to send us your results.

If you haven't sent yours in yet, remember the deadline is midnight on Friday 5th January.

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