Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year Plant Hunt: Day 2

Petasites fragrans : Callum Mullins VC37
We are receiving so many records for this New Year Plant Hunt, it seems as though every botanist in Britain and Ireland has either just returned from, or is about to set out on, a 3 hour hunt to see what's in flower right now.

We've had lists in today from Cumbria, Northumberland, Selkirk, Devon, Cornwall, Guernsey, Brighton, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Worcestershire, London, West Cork, Kerry (North and south), County Wexford, Aberystwyth, Aberdare... I could go on and on but you get the picture!

While many lists contain lots of the “usual suspects”, we have had a few first records today, as reports have started to come in from Ireland. Recorders out at Glengarriff Nature Reserve, West Cork, found more than 30 species in flower, including Portuguese Heather Erica lusitanica, and Rory Hodd recorded 23 species in flower around Muckross, North Kerry, including Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo. In case you’re thinking hang on, that’s not a native plant, well it is in the south-west of Ireland, where it is one of a suite of plants with Lusitanian distribution.

Arbutus unedo: Rory Hodd, VC H2
Phoebe O’Brien is on her way back to Galway, where she will be out recording in the morning, having been down in Hove on the south coast of England today - she recorded 20 species in flower. 

Irish botanists will also be out tomorrow in Carlow, in Donegal and Irish Officer Maria Long will be out in Dublin, while several Scottish recorders are keeping a keen eye on the weekend weather forecast. On the Whitmuir Estate at Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, one intrepid botanist has already braved “sleet, showers and string winds” to record 4 species flowering at 900’ including one flower of Ivy.

Hottentot Fig: CGO Ecology, VC4
Some plants will have been greeted with less of a smile - although the Hottentot Fig is colourful and attractive, it is an invasive alien plant which is outcompeting native species at some coastal sites. 

Remember yesterday’s “amazing world record” – Tim and Ceri’s 69 species in flower? We heard before the day was out from Matt Stribley, whose walk around Truro yielded 70 species!

But the value of the Plant Hunt lies in finding out not only what is in flower right now across Britain and Ireland, but what isn’t! Several very sharp-eyed botanists, including BSBI President Ian Denholm, submitted surprisingly short lists, having found far fewer species in flower than might be expected, although their reports were often accompanied by comments like “after several nights of heavy frost”. Two very experienced recorders are still slightly dazed at finding absolutely nothing in flower and you can imagine how hard they will have looked - anything blooming, and they would have found it!

Erigeron acer: Christopher
Jeffree, VC30 
So, while Arthur Chater recorded 40 species in flower around Aberystwyth, Tim and Ceri fared less well revisiting the same location as last year in Aberdare. They found only 22 species in bloom after 90 minutes in a bitter wind, after which they very sensibly headed for the nearest tearoom. Tim noted “Last year we had 28 species, but the new weedy road verges are now all grassed over and the recent frosts have been very frosty. Still, makes an interesting comparison!”

It is certainly worth making a record on your list (before you email it to us at nyplanthunt@bsbi.org) of the route taken while plant-spotting, so you – or others – can make similar interesting comparisons in years to come! As with herbarium specimens, it’s those location details that can make all the difference to future users.

Daisy: Sophie Leguil, London
Many people have taken part in the Plant Hunt for the first time this year, such as Wendy Tagg in Sussex who shared this account of her experience, illustrated by some superb images. Unfortunately I can’t add Wendy’s excellent blog to the list of 44 BSBI members’ blogs on the right as she is not (yet!) a member.

Last but not least, Sarah Whild and her team recorded 55 species in Shrewsbury (details to follow), and Dawn was out in the field again today – she and Jill recorded 52 species blooming in Pagham, West Sussex.

All this and we’re only halfway through the four days of Plant Hunt 2015. Watch this space!