Wildflower Wednesday: A New Year Plant Hunt
Since 2012 the BSBI (the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland) has conducted its New Year Plant Hunt. Wildflower lovers from all over the UK walk round their local patch over the first few days for a few hours at the start of January and record what they see fully in bloom. Overall (and surprisingly), over 500-600 different species may be found depending on the survey year, with around 40 not uncommon on an individual walk. The top 5 finds last year were the dandelion and daisy, plus groundsel, annual meadow-grass, and common chickweed.
The counts each year may vary, but the collection of survey information over a number of years helps identify any trends. The project aims to find out how our wildflowers are responding to changes in autumn and winter weather patterns, and over the few years it's been going, changes have been seen already.The use of volunteers as 'citizen scientists', means a much wider area can be covered and in greater numbers than our scientists alone can manage.
I joined them this year, along with my WI friend Fiona. It was something a little different for one of our regular walks together and most welcome for that. I started the survey along the public footpath from home until we met up in the Donkey Field close by. We followed several footpaths there, plus along the part of Hardenhuish Lane which borders it, then continued along the road to the top of town to start a much needed longer and faster-paced walk to warm up. Botanising is usually a much slower walk, though at least we were quicker than some of those I've been on with experts. With them it can take hours to walk a third of a mile!
Although I had my trusty Francis Rose wildflower key with me, it was too cold for on the spot ID work. I photographed them instead for the nice warm task of looking them up when I got home. I also have to confess to a couple of senior moments, where I just couldn't remember the name, so my notebook shows 'mystery grass 1' (and 2), plus 'mystery purple flower' (I should know you!) and mystery yellow thing (And you - your name begins with C!).
Our results were quite interesting, with a total of 18 wildflowers found, even though we walked for a much shorter time than the full BSBI survey prefers, plus we're pretty close to the average of 17.9 species found per survey. The top surveyor found 86 species in Jersey and overall there were 714 species and 21426 individual records across 1196 lists for 2021, despite the chilly weather we had over Christmas and New Year.
We found (those in this year's BSBI top 20 are marked with a *, 12 in total):
- Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
- Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) *
- White dead-nettle (Lamium album) *
- Red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) *
- Smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleracereus) *
- Prickly sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) *
- Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus) *
- Daisy (Bellis perennis) *
- Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
- Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) *
- Shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) *
- Common chickweed (Stellaria media) *
- Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)
- Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) *
- Hazel catkins (Corylus avellana)
- Annual meadow grass (Poa annua) *
- Cocksfoot grass (Dactylis glomerata)
There was a fair amount to find, even though it looks quite dead out there overall, apart from the plentiful looking cow parsley and alkanet pushing through the soil with their welcome fronds of fresh green. It just goes to show what can cling on to life when there's some shelter and you take the trouble to look. It was noticeable that the man-made walls and cracks in the pavement on the way into town had thriving plants which swelled our count considerably. Anyone interested in this observation should take a look at the More Than Weeds website, which challenges our common perception that wildflowers in an urban setting are just 'weeds'.
Whilst I didn't add our results to the BSBI survey (we were a couple of days late, plus we walked for a much shorter time than the given protocol), it's heartening to see our plant numbers and species are broadly similar to those recorded results from nearby locations.
I also noted some garden escapees, like the pictured Corydalis above. This was my 'mystery yellow thing' and whilst it's often found in the 'wild', it's also quite a popular garden plant. Its location in the middle of a front garden footpath puts it firmly into the garden escapee category. The same goes for the bellflower Campanula persicifolia which we found perched on a garden wall. Other garden escapees we found included:
- Winter jasmine
- Mexican fleabane - Erigeron
- Bright orange marigolds - Calendula
- Perennial wallflower - Erysimum
- Geranium of the Pelargonium kind
- Lesser periwinkle - Vinca minor
- Japanese quince - Chaenomeles
I also found a couple of surprise garden plants in flower to swell my count from Blooms Day: a passionflower and mock Mexican orange plant. Summer flowering plants still putting on a display along the Bristol Road!
Wildflower Wednesday is hosted by my dear friend Gail at Clay and Limestone.