Sunday 30 December 2018

New Year Plant Hunt 2018-9: Day Two

Alistair points out a white dead-nettle
Image: C. Pinches
Day Two of the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt: the weather seems to have stayed fair across much of Britain and Ireland, as it did for Day One. People have been out plant-hunting on their own, with family and friends or with organised groups of botanical recorders

The Hunt has also been appealing to all ages - I've seen records coming in from people in their 80s as well as plant-lovers at the other end of the age spectrum. The photo on the right shows Alistair helping Daddy (who happens to be BSBI's Head of Science!) to find and identify plants in Epping Forest. Great work Alistair!

The New Year Plant Hunt interactive Results map is beginning to fill up nicely, with red markers wherever botanists have been recording and some long lists, and most people are finding the online recording form easy to use (if they hit any problems, members of the Support Team are on hand to help!)

As well as the big islands of Britain and Ireland, we are seeing some nice records from our  smaller islands: salmonberry, bilberry and trailing St. John's-wort are blooming on the Isle of Arran; recorders on the Isle of Wight spotted 54 species including hoary stock, seaside daisy, (naturalised) rosemary, hedge woundwort, purple viper's-bugloss and nasturtium; heather and western gorse were flowering on the Isle of Man; while Anne and her team on Jersey recorded 55 species including sweet violet, Mexican fleabane, corn spurrey, small nettle, navelwort and rescue brome, as well as sea mayweed, which was also spotted in bloom along the south coast of England!

Sweet violet, this patch spotted by Jamie
Warren in Gloucestershire yesterday
Image: J. Warren
It's also important to know where there are very few plants in bloom, so alongside the long lists we were glad to hear from Ian Green near Elgin (north-east Scotland) where he spotted just five species flowering: red dead-nettle, gorse, daisy, common field-speedwell and annual meadow-grass.

Over on Scotland's milder west coast, BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh found 24 taxa in bloom in Fort William, including sea mayweed which was also recorded in the Aberystwyth area, where Arthur Chater (formerly the County Recorder for Cardiganshire) found 66 species in bloom including field woundwort, sea stork's-bill, weld, common hemp-nettle and two fumitories (tall and Boreau's ramping-fumitory).

Fay, Chloe & co found Aberystwyth train station
surprisingly fruitful - 31 species in flower!
Image: Chloe Griffiths 
Sea mayweed was also one of 74 taxa recorded in flower by Somerset Rare Plants Group, including tall melilot, seaside daisy, lesser chickweed and the invasive three-cornered garlic (which I saw in leaf, but still weeks away from flowering, in Leicester during a Plant Hunt there yesterday).

Proximity to the coast, especially the west coast, where the sea makes frosts much less likely than further inland, can be seen to be an important factor in finding more species in flower. But over on the east coast Whitby Naturalists still had a good list with 45 species in bloom including musk-mallow, lesser sea-spurrey, alexanders and (again!) sea mayweed

Jessica's team of plant hunters out in Killarney
Image: J. Hamilton
On the south coast, recorders in Storrington, West Sussex, found 63 species in flower including wild pansy, sweet vernal-grass, corn spurrey, and broad-leaved dock already in bloom! They also saw buck's-horn plantain in flower, also spotted by Dave Steere in Kent. As during last year's Hunt, Dave also found naturalised Kniphofia red-hot poker flowering, and musk stork's-bill which both Martin and Barry found in (respectively) Teesside and Yorkshire.

In Ireland too, people seem to be finding more species in bloom near the coast. Jessica Hamilton, leading a group Hunt at Muckross, Killarney, found 43 species in bloom (the same number she found last year!) including strawberry tree and common valerian, while Finbarr spotted 52 species flowering in Cork, including common ramping-fumitory, Himalayan honeysuckle, scarlet pimpernel and sticky mouse-ear. 

Navelwort blooming today in
Campile, Co. Wexford
Image: P. O'Meara
At Merlin Woods near Galway, recorders found 31 species in bloom including marsh ragwort, barren strawberry and primrose while a few miles further north in Headford, Eamonn Delaney notched up 26 species including rue-leaved saxifrage, whitlow grass and field forget-me-not. 

In Donegal, up near the northernmost tip of Ireland, Carol's list of 27 species included fuchsia, tall ramping-fumitory, common hemp-nettle and marsh thistle in flower. 

But don't go thinking that all inland sites had few plants in bloom - Paula O'Meara in Rathnure, around 20km from the coast, spotted 48 species in bloom including meadow foxtail, small toadflax, wild strawberry, Boreau's ramping-fumitory, field madder and bifid hemp-nettle and 46 more, including navelwort and long-stalked crane's-bill, in nearby Campile. We obviously need more data before we can even think of drawing any conclusions yet!

Large-flowered hemp-nettle captured today
(in windy weather!) by Rebecca Wheeler, the
driving force behind the success of
Wild Flower Hour
Image: R. Wheeler
As today was a Sunday, #NewYearPlantHunt and #wildflowerhour (where people post photos of wild or naturalised plants they've spotted in bloom during the past week) came together between 8 and 9pm across social media. 

It has been such a pleasure to watch people taking their first steps in plant-spotting with #wildflowerhour, then progressing to the New Year Plant Hunt and then looking around for training courses (and grant funding to help pay for those courses!) so they can build up their ID skills. 

And BSBI will be there to help and support them all the way!

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