Wednesday, 3 January 2018

New Year Plant Hunt

Had you been in Peppard on Sunday you might have witnessed Oli Pescott and I striding about the parish, peering into hedges and self confidently looking over garden wall at weeds, for the hunt was on. The New Year Plant Hunt of course, the national scheme run annualy by the BSBI between 30th December and 2nd January, which challenges botanists to find as many wild plants in flower as possible in a continuous three hour period. With Oli for company I managed to do one better than my solo plant hunt which I blogged about last year, and further media coverage was provided with Oli tweeting about our hunt (left). I'd be delighted to hear by any means of other local Hunts, just be sure to submit your records here!

The choice of locality for our Hunt was not the shrewdest as the biggest yields of plants in flower are to be found in areas with a diversity of disturbed habitats, with an abundance of weeds and garden escapes, while Peppard is mostly semi-natural . I thought we'd make it a little bit more fun by seeing how many bryophytes we could find 'flowering' too (i.e. producing sporophytes), and we also kept full lists of both vascular plants and bryophytes! In all we had 20 species in flower, some maybe questionably so — do the cleistogamous flowers of Poa annua (annual meadowgrass) count, and can one ever actually tell whether the tiny-flowered and petal-less Aphanes arvensis (parsley piert) is in flower? In addition to the weeds and garden escapes we had the winter-flowering specialists, with Daphne laureola (spurge laurel) and a male plant of Mercurialis perennis (perennial mercury) on Peppard Common, and some early vernal species such as Ficaria verna (lesser celandine). The total was a few more than my 17 of last year, and better than the bryophytes of which we found only 16 with sporophytes, all commonly producing capsules at this time of year.

Not in flower but the star find of the day was unquestionably the unexpected colony of Saxifraga granulata (meadow saxifrage) in the churchyard of Rotherfield Peppard, seemingly mown with a razor blade. This species had not been seen in the tetrad since the 1960s and previous records (including that of Druce) were unlocalised, so a really good record of this uncommon plant. If you recall, flowering Saxifraga granulata was a highlight of one of the first meetings of the season, lending a nice symmetry to the year. There was further interest among the bryophytes when we found a tiny moss growing on a garden wall — after some head scratching it was suggested that our plants might be the first county record of Leptobarbula berica, but we await confirmation of this.

In total we recorded 173 vascular plant taxa, not a bad haul for December and valuable additional records for Atlas 2020, as well as 51 bryophyte taxa. Oli and I will continue botanising throughout the 'off season', and will next be meeting in Hinksey on the 7th. Please email me if you'd like to join us.

Above: flowering Daphne laureola (spurge laurel) (top) and a male plant of Mercurialis perennis (perennial mercury) (bottom), typical winter flowering plants, found during a New Year Plant Hunt. Right: the delightful sparsely hairy rosette leaves of Saxifraga granulata (meadow saxifrage) growing in All Saint's churchyard in Rotherfield Peppard.

No comments:

Post a Comment