Saturday 31 December 2022

New Year Plant Hunt 2023: Day One

Red Dead-nettle by flashlight
Image: G. Scollard
We opted to start our twelfth New Year Plant Hunt on New Year's Eve 2022, as it was a Saturday so many people were off work and free to go out plant-hunting. Weather forecasts were not great and rain stopped play in many places but neither bad weather nor even pitch darkness can stop some botanists: once again the inimitable Ger Scollard was out with a flashlight and, within minutes of the Hunt starting, had recorded Red Dead-nettle in bloom near Tralee. What a legend! 

Once the sun was up, botanists were out hunting from Guernsey (31 species recorded, including Lesser Celandine, Pellitory-of-the-wall and and Common Dog-violet) up to Westray in the Orkney archipelago (4 species including Sea Mayweed) and from Earlham Cemetery in Norwich (21 species including Winter Aconite and Common Fumitory) over to Galway in the west of Ireland (8 species including Great Mullein and Yarrow). 

Our intrepid plant-hunters wandered along country lanes, around urban industrial estates and car parks, and into cemeteries, peering at road verges and pavement cracks, looking for wild and naturalised plants in bloom. 

Leicester botanists chuffed to find Annual
Mercury blooming on an industrial estate
Image: L. Marsh

By around 10pm, the Results page was showing that 836 unique records had been submitted and 169 species recorded, with Daisy, Dandelion and Groundsel (aka the Usual Suspects) topping the list of most frequently recorded plants. 

Botany groups out hunting in Somerset and the Bristol area, and ace botanists such as Paul Green, BSBI Ireland Officer, hunting in Co. Wexford, notched up some of the longest lists.

But as Moira from the New Year Plant Hunt Support Team reminded people, the Hunt isn't about competing for longest lists, it's about recording which plants are in bloom so we can compare across the years and against Met Office data, and learn more about how a changing climate is impacting our wildflowers. The Hunt is great fun but it's also an important Citizen Science initiative... with optional cake and hot chocolate ;-)

Jack and Florence consult Francis
Rose's Wildflower Key to check the
Ragwort that Florence found:
it was an Oxford Ragwort.
Image: L. Marsh
Lots of people who follow the same route over the years are reporting that they only found around half the usual number of species in bloom. I was out hunting today with my local botany group and although we had 16 pairs of eyes scrutinising the exact same area where we found 57 species in bloom in 2019, this time we only found 27 species, even though we had the benefit of the incredibly sharp eyes of Florence, one of our excellent young plant-hunters. It seems the cold snap a few weeks ago zapped a lot of species. 

But we had a brilliant afternoon - peering at plants in the company of lovely botanists really is one of life's great pleasures! 

If you haven't made plans yet to go out hunting, and you'd appreciate some company, try contacting your BSBI County Recorder to find out if there are any group hunts happening in your area, or check our New Year Plant Hunt Facebook group

You can also go out on your own, with family and friends or follow the example of Kerry botanist Jessica Hamilton and head out with a canine companion or two

Happy hunting - we can't wait to hear about what you find tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. I did a wild flower survey on New Years Day round my local park in East Barnet, N. London, and the adjoining streets with numerous tree pits. I recorded 10 spcs, common annuals, but didn’t know where to send my findings. We monitor our wild flowers at Barnet Environment Centre throughout the year. I am interested to know more.


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