Volunteers brave cold weather to find wildflowers

Record number of participants undertake survey for flowering plants in midwinter.

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Gorse in flower during the 2017 New Year Plant Hunt © Oisin Duffy

 

The sixth New Year Plant Hunt has proved successful with citizen scientists as over 416 recording groups contributed 7,123 records of flowering plants.

Taking place in the first four days of 2017, 492 species of flower were recorded to be in bloom around the UK during walks of less than three hours.

“People found significantly fewer species in bloom this year,” said Dr Kevin Walker, head of science at the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). “Interestingly, this difference was much less marked for non-native species.”

Flowering winter heliotrope in Sidmouth, Devon, during the 2017 New Year Plant Hunt © Karen Woolley

In 2016, 119 more species were recorded in flower and it is thought that the cold temperatures and widespread frosts in previous months had curtailed the flowering of many species.

More than a third of participants used the newly developed app in the field on a smartphone, and almost half used the website version of the app at home.

“The app helped us collect more precise records and volunteers sent in far more photos than ever before,” said Tom Humphrey, BSBI database officer.

The first New Year Plant Hunt was carried out in Cardiff in 2012 by BSBI members, Tim Rich and Sarah Whild.

Top ten flowering species in the 2017 New Year Plant Hunt:

1. Daisy

2. Groundsel

3. Dandelion

4. Annual meadow-grass

5. Gorse

6. Shepherd’s-purse

7. Petty spurge

8. Chickweed

9. Red dead-nettle

10. Common speedwell

Read the full New Year Plant Hunt report

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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