Saturday 4 January 2020

New Year Plant Hunt 2020: Day Two

Hieracium argillaceum
in Sleaford, South Lincolnshire
Image: S. Lambert
The second Day of this year's New Year Plant Hunt and after a good start yesterday the records kept on pouring in today. 

Group Hunts took place across Britain and Ireland, giving people a chance to botanise together. 

County Recorders for Hampshire and South Lincolnshire respectively led groups out hunting; Sarah Lambert, County Recorder for South Lincolnshire, and her team of 11 botanists found 55 species in bloom, including Hieracium argillaceum, only the third post-2000 record for this species in the county

Joshua and a daisy in bloom, Univ Reading
Image courtesy of J. Ajowele
It was also Sarah's birthday so we're delighted that she chose to spend it with her fellow botanists - Happy Birthday Sarah! 

In Norfolk, Anne and Simon Harrap (of 'Harrap's Wild Flowers' fame) and their team found 74 species in bloom including some nice "arable weeds" such as dwarf spurge, sharp-leaved fluellen and corn marigold. 

On the University of Reading campus, Joshua Ajowele (one of Dr M's Plant Diversity MSc students) only had time to survey about a third of the campus but still managed to find 20 species in bloom and was very happy with his results - well done Joshua! 

Strawberry tree blooming in Killarney
Image: J. Hamilton
In Monmouthshire, the local botany group were out hunting and found quite a few species flowering (list to follow) but over in Radnorshire the Elan Valley hunters found only gorse in bloom. In Portishead, Fred Rumsey and Helena Crouch notched up 70 species in bloom including sea aster, rock samphire and alexanders, whereas up in south Yorkshire many lists were coming in with only 12-20 species in flower. All those lists are equally important, however long or short!

Over in Kerry, Jessica Hamilton and her team recorded 45 species blooming around the Muckross Peninsula in Killarney - that's two more than the same route last year. Once again the strawberry tree, a local speciality, was in bloom. Up in Co. Down, the County Recorder Graham Day led the first of two planned Hunts and notched up 34 species in bloom.

BSBI Comms Officer (on left) haranguing
defenceless County Recorders Brian Laney (Northants.)
 and John & Monika Walton (Warks.) -
they're examining fleabane phyllaries;
I'm brandishing Bob Leaney's fleabane article
Image: C. Dwyer 
Several members of the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team slipped away from the Help Desk to go out hunting - many thanks to other team members George and Ellen who held the fort. George had already been out the day before on Guernsey with his family and they found 19 species in bloom. 

In Leicestershire, three of us (Ciara, Brian and me, Louise) joined two of the Leicestershire County Recorders and two more from Warwickshire. Brian is also a County Recorder (for Northants.) and so, with 17 people in the group we were hopeful of a good list. 

Determined to get to grips with those pesky fleabanes, I took a copy of BSBI News no. 135 along with me so we could check what we saw against Bob Leaney's excellent illustrated article on how to separate the four main species. All of the ones we examined - and there were many! - had very hairy phyllaries but no sign of red tips so we decided they were all Guernsey fleabane Erigeron sumatrensis

No sign at all of the less hairy Canadian fleabane E. canadensis which used to be the most common species in these parts (and across much of England). BSBI members can download BSBI News no. 135 and all other recent issues of our membership magazine from the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website. Email me if you can't remember your password.

Common whitlowgrass

Image courtesy of
John Crellin/ Floral Images
We followed the same route as last year and actually got slightly fewer species in bloom: 52 compared to 57 last year. A few notable omissions: no common whitlowgrass Erophila verna in bloom, although we saw lots of rosettes. 

Sarah Whild had reported the same thing the day before - she and her very experienced team of Shropshire botanists couldn't find a single whitlowgrass in bloom. 

BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker had been out hunting in Yorkshire and made the same observation. He also failed to see green alkanet Pentaglottis sempervirens in bloom, whereas there had been hundreds of records of it last year. So, those are two species to watch out for during this year's Hunt. 

This is the advantage of the Hunt, lots of botanists out across Britain and Ireland over the same time period, and all the records collected will be analysed by Kevin and correlated with meteorological data so he can see what patterns are emerging. 

Many solo recorders were out hunting too. David in Swanage notched up 115 species - the longest list so far, including quite a few garden escapes such as Mexican fleabane, Love-in-a-mist and Adria bellflower. 

Gigi and the field pansy she found
Image: K. Widdowson
But sometimes it's the quality rather than the quantity that counts: Gigi Widdowson was out helping her daddy Kevin do his New Year Plant Hunt and found her favourite plant, Field Pansy. It was also Kevin's birthday so that must have been a nice birthday present! 

Recorders in areas such as Northumberland, Lancashire, central and northern Scotland hunted for up to three hours but found nothing in bloom. 

We are very grateful to receive their 'nil records' emails with the grid ref of where they searched. These are being stored in a separate folder so Kevin Walker will have access to them when he comes to start his analysis.   

By the end of the day, 251 lists had been submitted and 423 species recorded in bloom. What will the third day of the Hunt bring? Watch this space to find out!

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