Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year Plant Hunt 2018 - Uckfield

For a number of years, the Botanical Society of the British and Ireland have been running a New Year Plant Hunt. The idea is to go out on the weekend of the New Year and spend a maximum of 3 hours hunting for wild flowers in bloom. If you are reading this on or before the New Year bank holiday, you can still take part. I also did the flower hunt:
  • 2015 - 21 species of which 2 were naturalised garden plants that had 'jumped the fence'
  • 2016 - 34 species of which 4 were naturalised
  • 2017 - 23 species of which 2 were naturalised
So how did I do this year? We've had some awful weather with a hard frost following and being followed by heavy rain. When I did my survey on the 30th of December, I feared that all my wild flowers would be mush. The day was dull but warm and dry. There was even a little sunshine just before noon.

I started with a straggle of Gorse in our own hedge.

Starting the New Year Plant Hunt with Gorse  - Manor Park, Uckfield
Just before crossing Browns Lane, I checked one of the clumps of bushes at the top of the Dene. No flowers but two bright little Robins flitting amongst the stems.

As usual, I found a good selection of flowers around Tesco Express and the other shops. These included many humble little "weeds" such as Shepherd's Purse, Annual Meadow Grass, Groundsel, Chickweed, Ivy-leaved Toadflax and Petty Spurge. Often they don't look like much but they provide seeds for hungry birds and nectar and pollen for insects.

Next I threaded through some of the Manor Park Estate's twittens, which yielded a Narrow-Leaved Hawks'-beard. In the shelter of the magnificent old Lime Trees of Lime Tree Avenue, I found a dear little Cow Parsley.

Cow Parsley - Lime Tree Avenue
In Southview Drive, I made straight for the big clump of Ivy on the corner of Beeches Close. As I approached, a group of cheeky House Sparrows flew out. There were several Ivy flowers in full bloom.

Ivy Flowers - Manor Park
When I got to the top of the town, I was in for a delightful surprise. I had seen buttercups in bloom just after Christmas Day but I was surprised to find them still flowering.  Also they turned out to be the charming Meadow Buttercup rather than the thuggish creeping one.  

Meadow Buttercup - top of the town
Thank you for the help with identification by:
  • BSBI Botany: Is the flower stalk groovy? Creeping and Bulbous are but flower stalk in Meadow B. should be ungrooved." I checked and it was smooth.
  • Brian Laney: With that tall flower spike and that lobeing to the upper stem leaves your id for meadow buttercup is spot on!
I also found Red Clover and Common Ragwort.  On the other side of the road, the old walls yielded the usual Wall Bellflower and Yellow Corydalis.

Surprisingly Holy Cross churchyard didn't yield much but there was a fine spread of fungi and a cheeky female blackbird dogging my footsteps. 
Fungi in Holy Cross Churchyard
At the foot of a hedge between the car park and Belmont Road, I found a Smooth Sow Thistle and a plant I had never seen before.
Ramping Fumitory in the feet of a hedge.
As I walked along Bellmont Road, I paused to watch a Wren feeding. We were both startled by a fat Grey Squirrel running along the fence.

Hazel Catkins near the Doctors' Surgery
I followed the little path that connects Belmont Road with the Doctors' Surgery and was amazed to see a lone hazel bush covered in catkins. There were none on those nearby. I was surprised because knew that there were none on the bushes by the river, which are usually the first to blossom.  As I was photographing it, Sandra, from the local nature reserves group, passed by and told me that the ones in the West Park Local Nature Reserve, a little further along the path were blooming too.  As I checked the rest of the path, a man asked me what I was doing. I explained about the flower hunt and we chatted about the spring bulbs that we were looking forward to seeing in our gardens.

Next, Bellbrook Industial Estate. Last year, this was one of my best sites. There wasn't so much this year but I did manage to add Common Mouse-ear and Red Dead Nettle to my list.  Then it was time to stop the clock for a break in the Station Pub. This gave me a chance to check my lists and see what was missing.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

A welcome break at The Station.
I also dropped into the supermarket to pick up some shopping - they had a fine display of flowers.
Supermarket Flowers

I just had to ask ...
WendyTagg: These don"t count  right? #NewYearPlantHunt
BSBIBotany: No they don't count, nor do the grapes that went into your glass of wine, nice try though ;-) #NewYearPlantHunt

I realised that I hadn't checked the hedge by the allotments - in 2016 I found Hawthorn in blossom and I wanted to see if had come out again. It hadn't but tiny blue Speedwell flowers were peeping out from the foot of the hedge.

Common Field Speedwell - under the allotment hedge.
Time was running short, so I walked home as quickly as I could, picking up a few stragglers along the way.  My own garden gave me a lovely surprise. The sun had warmed tightly closed buds, which had made little suns of their own.

Lesser Celendine - garden.

The Science Bit

Where?

Location: Uckfield, East Sussex.  Start point: TQ478219

What was missing?

Primroses, Violets and Hawthorn. It seems that fewer spring flowers have been tempted into bloom early.

26 Wild Plants Flowering on 30 December 2017

Scientific name Common name New in 2018?
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow Parsley  
Bellis perennis Daisy  
Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd's Purse  
Cardamine hirsuta Hairy Bittercress  
Cerastium fontanum Common Mouseear  
Corylus avellana Hazel  
Crepis tectorum Narrow-leaved Hawk's-beard New in 2018
Cymbalaria Muralis Ivy-leaved Toadflax  
Erigeron canadensis Canadian Fleabane New in 2018
Euphorbia peplus Petty Spurge  
Fumaria muralis Ramping Fumitory New in 2018
Hedera helix  Ivy  
Lamium purpureum Red Dead-nettle  
Poa annua  Annual Meadow Grass  
Ranunculus acris Meadow buttercup New in 2018
Ranunculus ficaria Lesser Celendine  
Senecio jacobaea Common Ragwort New in 2018
Senecio vulgaris  Groundsel  
Sonchus oleraceus Smooth Sow-thistle  
Stellaria media Common Chickweed  
Taraxacum officinale Dandelion  
Trifolium pratense Red Clover New in 2018
Ulex europaeus Gorse  
Urtica dioica Common nettle  
Veronica persica Common Field Speedwell  

3 Naturalised Plants Flowering on 30 December 2017

Scientific name common name New in 2018?
Bergenia cordifolia  Elephants ears  
Campanula portenschlagiana  Wall Bellflower  
Corydalis lutea Yellow Corydalis  


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