Sunday, 27 December 2015

New Year Plant Hunters are hatching their plans.

Species flowering in Co. Cork during 
New Year Plant Hunt 2015
Image courtesy of Glengarriff NR.
Across Britain and Ireland, and on social media platforms, plans are being hatched for local New Year Plant Hunts, when people head out to record what is in flower during the New Year holiday (1st-4th January). Last year's results are here - 368 species were recorded across Britain & Ireland and the weather has been milder this year so we may get more this time around.

You can take part in the New Year Plant Hunt on your own or with friends and family, in your local patch or while staying with relatives, and you can record for up to three hours. 

A few groups of plant-hunters are planning to head out en masse and are checking out local tearooms with decent cakes - you are allowed to "stop the clock" if you need refreshments! 

Some people are also wondering about local pubs for that essential post-Plant Hunt debrief and to look again at any tricky specimens. At least that's what Gail and members of the Warrington Plant Group told me. And anyone heading out with Oisin, Mairead and new BSBI President John Faulkner to record in the Newry/Ring of Gullion area of Northern Ireland is promised a 'warm drink' at the end of their New Year Plant Hunt. 


Viola odorata flowering by The Thames,
Boxing Day 2015.
Image: M. Robinson
The theme of New Year Plant Hunters rewarding themselves or others with food and drink escalates into full-scale botanical bribery in the English Midlands, with ace botanist Brian "Eagle-eyes" Laney being courted by several local groups to join their Plant Hunts. He plans to join Alyson's North Northants group for one of the four days of the Hunt but John and Monika in Warks. are running their first Plant Hunt in the county and are luring Brian over there with a bare-faced promise of wild flowers and cake. 

In 2013, Brian joined the Leics group on their New Year Plant Hunt, finding Geranium rotundifolium, new to the county. I was there and confirm that we all celebrated our new county record and its finder by heading off for tea and cake! But no one county should monopolise one of our top field botanists and this year he is also casting his eyes over to Shropshire, where Sarah and the Shropshire Botany Group will be out recording for the New Year Plant Hunt. Sarah's hospitality is legendary - there are even rumours of sherry and mince pies - but I'm sure Brian will be making his decision based on the wildflowers he might see. Of course he will.


Strawberry Tree in bloom in Co. Kerry,
New Year Plant Hunt 2015
Image: R. Hodd
Lots of people plan to head out on their own Plant Hunting - it's great fun with company but it's also a very good opportunity (excuse?) to get a few hours to yourself outdoors away from the social whirl and/or housework. Don't forget to tell your loved ones that you need to nip off for a few hours to help BSBI with vital research on how wild plants are responding to recent weather conditions and wider climatic patterns ;-)

Jerry will be heading out on his own in Notts on 1st January, and then plans to join the Leics Plant Hunters when they go out. Reuben in Norfolk is considering a solo Plant Hunt but may also want to join this Plant Hunt led by author and botanist Simon Harrap


Tim Rich with Smooth Hawksbeard
Cardiff area, December 2015
Taxonomist Sandy Knapp (Natural History Museum) tweeted "Is anybody doing the #NewYearPlantHunt in London?" so you can tweet right back at her if you are also out hunting in London. 
Botanists will be out Plant Hunting in DevonSkipton, YorkSussex and Uckfield, while George and Kate on Guernsey are going for their third Plant Hunt and Tim Rich, New Year Plant Hunt co-founder, will be out hunting for the fifth year in the Cardiff area. 

New Year Plant Hunts are also planned in Edinburgh and Co. Durham while over in the Republic of Ireland botanists are talking about the best dates for Plant Hunts in Dublin and Counties Kerry, Galway and Cork. For more details, contact BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long

With a week to go before New Year's Day, when the Plant Hunt starts, you still have time to arrange something locally. If you do, why not email me and Ryan here and tell us your plans? We can also help spread the word about local Plant Hunts via social media and on this News & Views blog.