Towards the end of November, walking the footpath northwest towards Weaveland Farm, I noticed a bright red poppy in bloom in the stubbles of the adjacent field. Scanning the area, I realised that there were hundreds of them blooming throughout the field.
Climate change is affecting the number of plants that we can expect to see in the winter months. In some cases, a mild autumn will allow plants to flower later into the early winter than is normal; in others, a lack of frost or extended cold spells can encourage spring species to flower early.
In 2012, the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI) started promoting an annual hunt for plants in flower during a four-day period over New Year – the New Year Plant Hunt. This has become increasingly popular and, in recent years, over 2500 participants recorded lists of flowering plants from over 1,700 locations across Britain and Ireland. Initially, it was set up as a bit of fun for botanists at a quiet time of the year. Now, a decade on, it is helping to build up a picture of how our flora is responding to changing weather patterns.
Between 30th December and 2nd January, participants are asked to count all native and non-native plants in flower seen on a walk of no more than three hours, excluding species obviously planted in gardens. Many of the species most frequently seen are common, well-known ones, such as Daisy, Dandelion, Dead Nettle, Groundsel and Gorse. The BSBI provides Spotter Sheets with pictures of the Top 10 and Top 20 most frequently seen flowers to help identification. You could also take photos and then try to identify the flowers when you get home. Hunters are then asked to enter records of their sightings on the BSBI website where they can also see other records coming in (www.bsbi.org/new-year-plant-hunt).
This month, we are collating the results of the plant hunt by our members into a group response and are offering a prize for the best pictures taken from those under 10 and between 10 and 21 years of age. Keep an eye on our online media for an update on this!
Naturally, sheltered locations in the south tend to yield more species than exposed ones in the north, but amazingly some hunters have found more than 70 species. Urban areas can provide a “heat island” effect, so it might be easier to find flowers in the walls and alongside paths in the village. Taking part in the hunt is a good excuse to get out for a walk after the festivities, and the results will contribute to the wider nationwide study; it will also be interesting to see the effects of the recent weather.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
The headers display photos taken by our members. Do get in touch via the Contact Form if you'd like to submit a photo for selection.