Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year Plant Hunt

Yesterday I took part in the BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland) New Year Plant Hunt. The idea of which is to see how many species of native or naturalized plants are flowering in the first four days of 2015 across Britain and Ireland. I decided to look in Sidmouth but having only moved here a couple of months ago I'm not all that familiar with the town and didn't really have much of an idea where to look. If I'd been doing it in Seaton I'd have known all the best places to see flowering plants having noticed many in previous winters. Seaton also has the advantage of having more than its fare share of waste ground and the stabilized shingle bank at the Axe Yacht Club is also an ideal place. Still, I thought I'd give Sidmouth the benefit of the doubt and ventured out at 9am not really knowing what to expect. I had three hours to find as many flowering plants as possible.

First stop was a local nature reserve called The Knapp, this was rather a poor choice as I already knew that most winter flowering 'weeds' are to be found in more built up areas. I wasted a fair amount of time here and only picked up two species.



The nature reserve backed onto the cemetery but this wasn't any good at all for my quest because  Sidmouth cemetery isn't like most other cemeteries I've been in. It was more like an ornamental garden 'brushed and combed' is an understatement! Next to the cemetery were some allotments and they looked superb but unfortunately were fenced off so I couldn't go inside, I wonder what I missed in there?

Next I went to Peak Hill road on the western side of the seafront. Firstly right up to the top to get...


Further down the hill I picked up quite a few additions including..


Red Valerian 
Naturalized in these parts, it's blinkin' everywhere!

Winter Heliotrope
 It was worth going out just to smell this naturalized plant, simply exquisite!

Red Campion

I realized I could have done with going to search in the town centre but when I got there it was heaving with new year shoppers ( I can think of better things to do on a New Year myself) I couldn't find anywhere to park either so had to give up. What I did instead was drive around a bit and see if I could spot anything from the car. This proved to be quite successful and I added a few more species this way. Unfortunately I got some pretty awful photos (and some bemused looks) as I stopped jumped out snapped and jumped back in.
My drive by additions are..

 Lesser Celandine

Mexican Fleabane
 Another naturalized species, as is..

Yellow Corydalis

Where the River Sid flows though the town is a park called The Byes and this is where I tried next, again all a bit too 'brushed and combed' for my liking and there were very few areas which looked suitable. However, having said that I did get a few more species here so it can't be that bad.

Cow Parsley


Petty Spurge

Finally I spent a good while in an area near to my house, an area with houses, a small supermarket a recently built community centre and a new doctors' surgery in the process of being built. Lots of recently disturbed ground means lots of seeds brought to the surface where they can germinate even if it is still mid-winter! I got my highest number of species in this area. Including...


 Complete with nectaring could be summer!

Common Field Speedwell

Black Medick

 Creeping Buttercup

Curled Dock

Red Clover

Common Ragwort
 Okay, only just!


Shepherd's Purse


Wild Radish
I identified three grasses in flower but there were probably many more to find. Much too difficult for me though. I took one home to key out and that took long enough! That was Tall Fescue. I also recorded Cock's-foot Grass and Annual Meadow Grass. For grasses to count as in flower the anthers and/or stamens must be visible like so...

Cock's-foot Grass

Tall Fescue

I saw a few flowers that I didn't record as they were most likely garden escapes, but they were nice to see anyway.

 This Stinking Hellebore was on a verge but near to gardens and a park.

This white form of Lesser Periwinkle was on a verge in a car park.

This one was puzzling as it looks like a Wild Strawberry but has the wrong amount of petals.
It was next to a garden hedge so I put it down as a garden escape.

This one is definitely a wildflower but unfortunately still in tight bud so doesn't count.
Common Knapweed ...'Close but no cigar'

An enjoyable but very tiring three hours, trying to search in so many places. I'll plan my route better if I do it again next year and make sure I spend more time in built up areas where most of the winter flowering action is!

Below is my complete list of 30 recorded species. * Not Photographed.

Achillea millefolium - Yarrow

Anthriscus sylvestris - Cow Parsley

Bellis perennis- Daisy

Capsella bursa-pastoris- Shepherd's Purse

Centranthus ruber - Red Valerian

Cerastium fontanum - Common Mouse-ear*

Corydalis lutea - Yellow Corydaylis

Corylus avellana - Hazel

Dactylis glomerata - Cock's -foot Grass

Erigeron karvinskianus - Mexican Fleabane

Euphorbia peplus - Petty Spurge

Festuca arundinacea - Tall Fescue

Ficaria verna -Lesser Celendine

Hedera helix - Ivy

Heracleum sphondylium - Hogweed

Medicago lupulina - Black Medick

Petasites fragrans - Winter Heliotrope

Poa annua - Annual Meadow Grass*

Primula vulgaris - Primrose

Ranunculus repens - Creeping Buttercup

Raphanus raphanistrum - Wild Radish

Rumex crispus - Curled Dock

Senecio jacobaea - Common Ragwort

Senecio vulgaris - Grounsel

Silene dioica - Red Campion

Sonchus oleraceus  - Smooth Sow Thistle*

Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion

Trifolium pratense - Red Clover

Uulex europaeus - Gorse

Veronica persica - Common Field Speedwell.


Natasha Hill said...

Wow - I love how many species you managed to capture, all the different photos are lovely and it's helped with identifying some of the specie around near me too! I must make sure I take part in this next year. Lovely post! - Tasha xxx

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks for commenting Natasha. Yes, you must have a go next year it's great fun!