Monday 6 January 2020

New Year Plant Hunt 2020: Day Three

Day Three of the New Year Plant Hunt saw group hunts as far afield as Wiltshire, Surrey, Northamptonshire, Caernarvonshire, Fife and Dumfriesshire, with solo hunters and small family groups out hunting from Tywardreath in Cornwall (71 species blooming including slender knapweed, balm-leaved figwort and cornflower) to Thurso on the northern tip of Scotland (10 species flowering including ivy-leaved toadflax and winter heliotrope). 

In Ireland, hunters were out from Westport, Co. Mayo (19 species blooming including toad rush and bulbous buttercup) to the Grand Canal in Dublin (23 species including feverfew and pellitory-of-the-wall). 

Interesting species spotted in bloom on Day Three included keeled-fruited cornsalad seen by Karen Woolley in Devon (image above right) and Cape figwort spotted by Jonathan Mortin in Derbyshire (top right in the montage below). 
As well as all the usual habitats where botanists hunt for plants, some plant hunters headed up mountains to find out what was blooming there. 

Sarah Watts, who works for the National Trust for Scotland and authored this excellent paper about the lovely snow pearlwort Sagina nivalis for British & Irish Botany, BSBI's free, on-line, Open Access scientific journal, went up Meall na Samhna and found cross-leaved heath blooming at 400m. 

Then she did a second Hunt and found annual meadow-grass flowering at 403m up Birnam Hill

Can anyone beat that? More info about the links between plants and altitude on this webpage.
Cross-leaved heath at 400m
Image: S. Rawlinson
Sarah suggests a challenge as part of next year's New Year Plant Hunt, to find the highest plant in bloom. Who else would be up for that? We might even try to drum up a prize for the winner...   

Some botanists found only one or two 'usual suspects' in bloom, such as gorse spotted by Heather near Durham - the only species she found in flower following heavy frosts in the area during December. If Heather's name sounds familiar, that's because she's a two-time winner of the BSBI Photographic Competition.

With the heavy rain earlier this year following a long hot dry spell, and frosts in some areas in December but not in other areas, Kevin Walker's analysis of results will be particularly interesting this year - we can probably expect a strong correlation between meteorological data and plant records. I wonder how this year's analysis is going to compare with previous years?

The lists of most frequently seen species are also looking very similar to last year although so far there are fewer records of hazel in flower (people have been on the look-out for those distinctive red stigmas on the tiny female flowers) and there seems to be more cow parsley in flower, which can sometimes look a bit odd at this time of year. 

Gorse photographed by Heather Kelly
Several very accomplished botanists have circulated photos to check if the plant they are looking at really is cow parsley!  

The similarly named but much rare corn parsley was found by ace plant-spotter Brian 'Eagle-Eyes' Laney during the group Hunt in Brackley, Northants. 

It wasn't in flower, just a rosette, but this species is on the Rare Plant Register for the county so Brian was very pleased! 

Finally: botanists are very resourceful and always find ways to surmount any obstacles they encounter. Kent botanist Owen found himself stuck in a traffic jam on the way back from a trip to Wales so what did he do? A central reservation New Year Plant Hunt from the car! 

Day Four summary to follow...

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