600 Species of British Wildflower in Bloom On New Years Day

It’s been a warm winter, don’t lie here in the UK we’ve been a tad jealous of the snowfall America witnessed last week. In fact for me it’s been a while since winter meant anything but mild temperatures and heavy rain. Of course whilst you might have been feeling confused by the lack of snow over Christmas, nature is also feeling confused.

It was probably the most absurd New Years Day in the plant world ever. 600 species of British windflowers were in bloom on the first day of 2016. This is in comparison to 20 or 30 you would expect to find flowering. A survey by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) has left plant scientists baffled by their results as it emerged that amongst the 612 species they found flowering where some more commonly seen in late spring and summer.

The New Year Plant Hunt is a comprehensive survey involving 500 BSBI members who spent three hours on New Years Day observing all the plants in bloom from the Hebrides to the Channel Islands. Their compiled surveys showed 612 individual species and many lists detailed 60-70 species in one location. One of Britain’s leading plant scientists, Professor Mick Crawley of Imperial College, recorded no fewer than 153 species in the London area.

So what does this mean? Well obviously the temptation is to lump the results of this survey together with the fact that December 2015 also witnessed record rainfall levels and was unseasonably warm and come out with climate change. The problem is however there is no long running baseline of British plants in flower on New Years day so there is nothing to compare 2016’s results with. Scientists currently understand that 20-30 are expected to be flowering at that time of year according to the current literature and research.

Although it is unclear if this part of a recurring  pattern or an unusual one off it’s certain that there were some incredible examples of bizarre plant flowering behaviour to see in this new year. 75% of those species found were regarded as late flowering and mostly should have come out in the summer. For example Horseshoe Vetch is associated with hot summer days on chalk downland but you could have seen it in South Devon on the 1st day of 2016.

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Emily Stewart
Owner of Inspirewildlife - a site dedicated to sharing positive conservation news stories from around the world. Zoo Management Graduate from University of Chester
Emily Stewart

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