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Warmest Year leads to a Blooming January

While out walking on New Year’s Day we saw some gorse bushes in flower, normally something we enjoy in April. We thought we must be going mad, but it seems not. The warmest year on record has led to all sorts of plants coming into flower out of season.

 

2014 was the UK's warmest since records began in 1910, according to the MET Office. It was also the warmest year in the Central England Temperature series, the longest running climate record which dates back to 1659. It wasn’t just a couple of hot months either; instead each month was consistently warm. No wonder then, that botanists have noticed some odd behaviour in the UK’s plants.

The Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) runs an annual New Year Plant Hunt which invites volunteers to record any wild plant species in flower between 1st and 4th of January. The 2015 event was the fourth year of the study which aims to inspire people to take an interest in botany as well as collect data so that trends can be compared regionally and over time.

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The combination of more volunteers this year and the mild conditions meant that the results were even more prolific than the organisers anticipated. A total of 368 different species were recorded in flower. Dr Tim Rich, Plant Hunt co-ordinator said, ‘368 species in flower is an unprecedented 15% of the flowering plants in Britain and Ireland; the textbooks suggest there should only be 20-30 species in flower. As expected, the mild south and west of Britain had the highest numbers of species in flower, but we also had lists of over 50 species from the east and north of England, and an amazing 39 flowering in Edinburgh.’

The most common flowers were daisy and dandelion but more unusual finds included yarrow (normally in flower only in the summer), cow parsley (normally in flower in late spring) and a strawberry tree in flower in County Kerry.

So that explains why I’ve got a red rose flowering in the back garden...

13 January 2015

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