New Year Plant Hunt #4 – Leicestershire

The 3rd January arrived and with New Year Plant Hunt‘s completed in two counties in the first two days (Devon and Bristol), I decided to get up early, before the rain, and nip across the border into Leicestershire to record in a third county.

I went to a Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust site first – Stonesby Quarry in the village of Waltham on the Wolds. This is a lovely spot in the summer and a good place to see butterflies such as common blue and dingy skipper. I wasn’t sure what the limestone grassland habitats would show up but I thought the landform might lead to some more sheltered conditions which might encourage winter flowering.

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Sign at the entrance of Stonesby Quarry

The more established grassland swards turned up very little – or perhaps revealed very little – but the sparser more ephemeral areas revealed a few interesting species such as common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum), common field speedwell (Veronica persica), thyme-leaved sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia) and scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).

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Many of the more established areas of grassland sward held plenty of evidence of last season’s flowers but very few species in bloom during the January plant hunt.

Other typical long-season species were flowering towards the edges such as white deadnettle (Lamium album) and red campion (Silene dioica) along with wood avens (Geum urbanum) and hogweed (Heracleum sphonylium). My favourite find of the day was perhaps this red campion – usually a species with a few flowers on tall gangly stems, a close-chop for this one seemed to produce a profusion of flowers on a low flowering ‘spike’!

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On the way back towards home, I called in at the village of Branston where I had spotted some interesting arable flora in the summer and was curious to see whether there was any remnants of them. Sadly only rosettes were present within bare ground, but the village itself held a few more species such as lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and primrose (Primula veris).

Just as the rain settled in for the rest of the day, I spotted my last species of the day, the ever trust ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) which has been a staple of every Hunt so far this year!

Photo montage of the 26 species (highest count so far!) is below:

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The full species list is as follows:

Annual meadow grass (Poa annua)
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Prickly sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.)
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
White dead-nettle (Lamium album)
Common mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum)
Common field speedwell (Veronica persica)
Thyme-leaved sandwort (Arenaria serpyllifolia)
Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis)
Scentless mayweed (Tripleurospermum inodorum)
Red campion (Silene dioica)
Wood avens (Geum urbanum)
Autumn Hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis)
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Oil-seed rape (Brassica napus subsp. oleifera) (naturalised)
Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium)
Red/white campion hybrid (Silene spp.)

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The flock of… moderately friendly sheep which graze the site during the winter.

New Year Plant Hunt #3 – Bristol City Centre

Each year, the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) run a New Year’s Plant Hunt where they invite people to record as many species in flower as they can in the New Year – between 1st and 4th January.

This was the third Plant Hunt I found opportunity to do – this time in Bristol City Centre around Castle Park on the 2nd January 2016. I have spent little time exploring wildlife in more urban environments and was surprised just how many times I found people sleeping rough, or evidence of them doing so. In Exeter the day before, I tiptoed past a couple of sleeping bags under the shrubs and in Bristol came across several stashed caches of belongings as well as a pitched tent in a smaller park.

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The species I recorded in the gloaming drizzle were often nestling into the cracks in the city – bright splashes of yellow came from dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), Oregan grape (Mahonia spp.) ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens). The purple flowers of periwinkle (Vinca minor) appeared where it had escaped its garden origins and was flowering beside an underpass; whilst the mowed lawns of the Castle Gardens held naturalised stocks and sweet alyssum.

I think one of my favourite finds was annual mercury (Mercurialis annua) flowering in a shrubbery beside a city-centre church – this is a subtle and rather unimpressive relative of the more familiar woodland dog’s mercury (Mercurialis perennis), but a species I have rarely encountered.

Again, photographs are poor thanks to the conditions and the specimens, but the montage below shows the species recorded.

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The full species list is provided below:

Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Annual meadow grass (Poa annua)
Cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata)
Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)
Canadian fleabane (Conyza canadensis)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Periwinkle (Vinca major)
Annual mercury (Mercurialis annua)
Wall lettuce (Lactuca muralis)
Oregon grape (Mahonia spp.)
Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)
Dove’s foot cranesbill (Geranium mollis)
Stock (Matthiola spp.)
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Common mouseear (Cerastium fontanum)
Perennial sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis)

New Year Plant Hunt #2 – Tyntesfield National Trust

On the afternoon of the 1st January, we walked around Tyntesfield National Trust property near Bristol and took the opportunity to complete a second New Year Plant Hunt of the day (the first was in Exeter – see blog post here).

There was plenty to see here too including spring bulbs such as daffodil (Narcissus spp.) naturalised in the grasslands and periwinkle (Vinca minor) which had escaped the bonds of it’s original planting and was flowering away.

The lawns and grasslands turned up some typical species such as dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and daisy (Bellis perennis) whilst woodland edges revealed primrose (Primula vulgaris) and bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) in the ground layer with hazel (Corylus avelanna) catkins flowering above them.

In total we counted up 22 species in flower on the first day of the year. A photo montage of the findings is below!

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The full species list is provided below:

Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
Annual meadow grass (Poa annua)
Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus)
Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)
Prickly sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.)
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
Smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
Hazel (Corylus avellana)
Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)
Ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Red campion (Silene dioica)
Periwinkle (Vinca major)
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.)
Hedge parsley (Torilis japonica)
White dead-nettle (Lamium album)

New Year Plant Hunt #1 – Exeter St David’s

Each year, the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) run a New Year’s Plant Hunt where they invite people to record as many species in flower as they can in the New Year – between 1st and 4th January.

We were staying in Exeter over New Year’s and I nipped out for an hour in the morning to see how many I could count around Exeter St David’s. My initial count was 22 but I excluded daffodil as it was clearly part of a planted display and therefore not valid within the rules of the Hunt.

Daisy (Bellis perennis) and ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) seemed the most consistently flowering species – the former in all of the mown lawns and the latter in walls and crevices including the ruins/remains of Exeter castle.

The 21 species included a mix of winter flowering species – such as winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) – spring flowering species – such as primrose (Primula vulgaris), snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) – and long flowering species – such as daisy, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.) and yarrow (Achillia millifolium).

The early morning light and overcast, breezy weather was not condusive to good photographs but I’ve put together a montage of the species below.

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Four days seemed a good opportunity to do four searches – write-ups of three further searches from Bristol, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire to follow!

The full species list is provided below:

Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale)
Annual meadow grass (Poa annua)
Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
Cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata)
Winter heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus)
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Ivy-leaved toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Nipplewort (Lapsana communis)
Prickly sow-thistle (Sonchus asper)
Canadian fleabane (Conyza canadensis)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)
Water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.)
Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)
Oxford ragwort (Senecio squalidus)
Smooth sow-thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)