Thursday 13 January 2022

Changing times: January report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Happy New Year to you all and I hope that you were able to participate in the New Year Plant Hunt, which ran from 1st to 4th January this year, and is becoming increasingly popular. I am actually thinking that it might be good to do Spring, Summer and Autumn Hunts in the same monad (1km x 1km grid square) so that I can compare the phenology throughout these changing times. 

Although we have seen increased numbers of taxa in flower at New Year for the past two seasons, this year there has been a decrease, at least up here in Cumbria. Storm Arwen, cold and wet conditions in November and December are probably the causes of this, but we will wait for the overall analysis to come out later this month and then we can compare with analyses from previous years.

As an example, last year we recorded 43 species around Arnside but only 16 this year. The normally productive sea front had been well and truly blasted by Arwen, except for Spartina which withstood the winds, and - although it is a fungus and so I did not add to the list of plants - the poisonous Ergot was evident on the grass. However, we did find a few species in sheltered spots including the sweetly-scented Winter Heliotrope Petasites fragrans (image above right). Goldfinches sought refuge in my garden and were feeding on the seed heads, which I had left deliberately for them (image below left). 

There have been many changes and challenges in the past year and, of course, things will continue to change, so we will continue to learn and evolve. Opportunities will be presented and let us try to accept them and move forward again. Sometimes it feels like we are in the ‘murk’ but there is always the chance to emerge from this into the clearer light. 

Recently many of you will have experienced the weather inversions, which provided spectacular views of ‘floating hillsides’ across many parts of Britain and Ireland. Here are a couple of images (below) from Arnside Knott from where you can usually see the sea, but in late December it was totally covered in mist and only the higher ground could be seen rising above. 

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