Sunday 2 January 2022

New Year Plant Hunt 2022: Day Two

Common Stork's-bill
in Northants.
Image: B. Laney
One of the nicest things about the New Year Plant Hunt is that it offers an opportunity for botanists to volunteer to help out on the Support Desk: answering enquiries, inputting data and offering plant ID advice. This year we have 11 people on the Team: three BSBI staff members, three County Recorders, two members of our Events & Comms committee who have served before on the Support Desk and we also have three brand new volunteers who got in touch to offer their services. 

Tonight one of those volunteers, Holly Sayer, has provided the following summary of the day's finds. Holly is a Field Botanical Surveyor for Aberystwyth University and runs an Agroforestry consultancy business with her partner. She lives on the coast of West Wales and in her spare time is usually river swimming, hiking or growing food. She is also active on Instagram.

Over to Holly for this evening's blogpost:

"Day 2 of the 2022 New Year Plant Hunt and with almost 500 surveys sent in so far, it seems that the unsettled weather hasn’t put a stop to plant hunters across Britain and Ireland getting outside and sending in their records. I suspect many have followed Debbie Alston's example and put the #stoptheclock to good use, ducking into a pub or café to avoid the rain.

Daisy in Nevern Churchyard,
West Wales
Image: H. Sayer
"The New Year Plant Hunt gathers records on flowering plants to contribute to our understanding of how changes in weather patterns are affecting both wild and naturalised flora in Britain and Ireland. As if by coincidence, the first day of Plant Hunt was held on a record-breaking mild New Year’s Day, with the fourth day predicting Arctic winds and snow in some areas across Britain and Ireland.

"New Year Plant Hunt findings over the years show that flowering plants are a combination of both ‘autumn stragglers’ (approx. half the species), early blooming spring flowers (a quarter of species) and all year-rounders or ‘weed species’. Here on the coast of West Wales, we have yet to see a frost this winter season. As these record high temperatures become more common place during winter it will be interesting to see how records of flowering plants change and whether these trends continue.

"At the time of writing, the humble Daisy Bellis perennis has been recorded 196 times, starting to close in on the previous years’ final count of 579. The other usual suspects, Dandelion Taraxacum officinale and Groundsel Senecio vulgaris are currently holding onto the top slots of 2nd and 3rd most recorded in the lists so far. Last year these species had the most recorded numbers ever, so it’ll be interesting to see if recorders can top this effort.

Self-heal blooming in Cornwall
Image: D. Ryan

"Meanwhile, there have been plenty of interesting plants that do not generally make it into the top 20 list, from Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis and Common Stork's-bill Erodium cicutarium in Northamptonshire to Self-heal Prunella vulgaris in Cornwall to Common Centaury Centaurium erythraea on the Atlantic shore in Connemara, as well as a putative Coral Spurge Euphorbia coralliodes found by James Common and the Natural History Society of Northumbria at Walker Riverside.

"This year so far records have been sent in from as far north as Dunnet on Scotland's North-east coast and as far south as Fauvic on Jersey, from urban Dublin and from the rural heights of the Brecon Beacons. The New Year Plant Hunt accepts records from cities and countryside and is open to all, from botany experts finding rarities and setting records and those new to the world of wild flowers with little experience in ID-ing. See a plant that you’re not sure about? Take a snap and tweet it using the hashtag #WildFlowerID: the twitter community is filled with friendly experts happy to help.

Fool’s parsley, foolin’ no one
image: David B

"Today a beautiful, easily mistaken and aptly named, fool’s parsley Aethusa cynapium was confirmed on twitter, using a photo that had captured the bracteoles and more rounded fruits of the A. cynapium, which help to distinguish it from cow parsley Anthriscus sylvestris.

"Currently, the list of longest lists shows 'Bath NYPH by Helena & Fred' to be in the lead with a whopping 92 flowering plants found, including arable edge favourites, cornflower Centuarea cyanus and corn marigold Glebionis segetum. In 2020, the top of the list of longest lists had identified 115 flowering species, so there’s still a chance that Helena and Fred might be moved from the top spot (not that it’s a competition!).  

Hawthorn, West Dulwich 2/1/2022
Image: P. Hedge
"‘What if I find nothing?’ you might be asking, well that’s just as useful and sending in this data is important to building an accurate picture of Britain and Ireland’s flora. With two days left of the New Year’s Plant Hunt there’s still time for you to get outside and add to the 332 surveys, 488 species and 4818 records that have been sent in so far, whether you find something blooming, or you happen to find nothing at all".

Huge thanks to Holly for this account of Day Two of the New Year Plant Hunt, and for all the help she has been providing on the Support Desk, including during yesterday's problems with the recording app - thankfully it was working well today! 

I'd just like to end with my favourite find from today, although I'm not sure whether to be surprised by it, or shocked and worried. Hawthorn - whose alternative name of May blossom indicates when it usually flowers - was recorded in bloom in West Dulwich by Pennie Hedge and the photo is reproduced here with her permission. It's probably too soon to re-name it January blossom, but still... strange times we live in!   

So, we're now halfway through the New Year Plant Hunt and as Holly says, there are forecasts of colder weather on the way. What effect will this have on the wild flowers we are seeing in bloom? Watch this space and we'll report back tomorrow evening.

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