Thursday, 12 April 2018

Is it ok to pick wild flowers and if so, when?

Sometimes it's best to take a photo
 of that plant and share it on social media!
Image: Mags Crittenden
Last November BSBI launched its revised Code of Conduct to help people understand when it's ok to pick wild flowers, when it definitely isn't, and what to do about all the grey areas in between! The Code, written for us by Dr Sarah Whild, botanist and lecturer in plant ecology, and Dr Fred Rumsey, Senior Curator at the Natural History Museum, has since become one of BSBI's most popular downloads. It is used by plant-lovers, whether ecological consultants or beginner botanists, keen to examine wild flowers more closely. Sometimes picking a flower is the best option!

Today our colleagues at Plantlife, with whom we run the National Plant Monitoring Scheme, launch this year's Great British Wildflower Hunt. To help wildflower-hunters, they have produced a short Code of Conduct based on BSBI's fuller version. The Plantlife Code also recommends the Rule of One in Twenty as promoted by Sarah and Fred - if you can't see more than 20 of a particular plant then definitely don't pick it!


Luronium natans - don't pick
this one, it's mega-rare!
Image: Sarah Whild
The Great British Wildflower Hunt joins the New Year Plant Hunt, Wild Flower Hour and Herbology Hunt as another way to get out and start spotting and identifying wildflowers. All these initiatives offer support in the way of spotter sheets or online help or ID tips and advice delivered via social media. You can find out more about how to get started with wildflower ID here on BSBI's Get Involved page which also has suggestions of useful Facebook groups, where to find a handlens (essential to see tiny flower characters) and a review of ID books in print.

But today is all about the launch of the Great British Wildflower Hunt and Plantlife President Rachel de Thame tells us more: "I knew my cowslip from my cow parsley and yes, I used to love picking little posies. So much of our wildlife is untouchable but common wild flowers and plants are different. I’ve gone on to teach my children and to nurture this relationship with our native flora that is fascinating, joyful and yes, important. The Great British Wildflower Hunt, with it’s helpful ID tips, can give us all confidence to identify flowers and also provides Plantlife with much needed information about how well they are doing.


Ambroise gets in there with his trusty hand-lens!
Image courtesy of Ambroise Baker  
"What we know and love we are more likely to conserve. It’s about children starting a relationship with wild flowers. It’s in a child’s instinct to collect, but today that means collecting stickers, toys or those must-have gadgets. Yet it wasn’t so long ago that children were just as keen to collect wild flowers, whether it was to take a posy home, press them, or make petal perfume, they were part of children’s everyday life. We need to ensure that this next generation is just as engaged and passionate so they will understand why wild flowers need to be cherished and protected for not only the beauty they bring to our lives but for their vital role as life support to all our wildlife." 

So please head over to the Great British Wildflower Hunt webpage to find out more. And if you are a more advanced botanist already working flat out recording for Atlas 2020, please consider recommending the Great British Wildflower Hunt to any beginner botanists you know - it's a great way to get involved with botany!