First Flowerings 2021

Here are Simon’s thoughts on a first flowering project for the new year. The data entry spreadsheet (with explanatory notes) is available here:

Last year’s ‘first flowering’ project has run its course, and for most of us it’s probably a good moment to move on to other things. And yet, unfortunately for Vicki, it’s also true that this coming year—as in every year since 2008—I shall continue to record FFDs for 300-odd species in the Taunton area. To be honest, it’s hard not to do it once you’ve started, but I wouldn’t wish for a moment to inflict this obsession upon anyone else. However, we find ourselves at the start of another lockdown which could well continue until March; and while we have the Mistletoe, Viscum album, to keep us occupied, for now, it is nevertheless the case that some of us don’t have much of that species growing in our local patches. So we may still need something else to distract us. And, let’s face it, there is bound to come a day, probably between now and the end of lockdown, when we’ll stumble upon our first Barren Strawberry, Potentilla sterilis, or our first Lords-and-Ladies, Arum maculatum, and there will be this desperate urge to want to shout about it from the rooftops. That might be a slight exaggeration, but you know the feeling, I’m sure…

All of which makes me wonder whether there could be some members interested in carrying on with ‘first flowerings’ for a little bit longer. To be honest, I’m not sure any of us have either the time or the energy at the moment to conjure up weekly target lists and reports of what we’ve found, but maybe something a little less ambitious would still be worth considering? My proposition, then, for the coming months, is that, rather than trying to record everything, we could perhaps concentrate on recording FFDs for about 100-150 common species. The emphasis should probably be on things likely to come into flower in the next three to four months, to see us through at least to the end of the current lockdown. But the list will also include a fair smattering of later-flowering species, ending (as last year) with Ivy, Hedera helix.  It has been suggested that suggested that the list could be distributed as a spread-sheet, thus encouraging members to keep their records in a form that could then be easily combined at the end of the summer. We would then produce a summary of what we’ve found, including an assessment of how FFDs in 2021 compare with those we recorded last year. It might be particularly interesting to explore a little more deeply how FFDs vary across the county, to see whether some of the patterns spotted in 2020 are repeated again this year.

A spreadsheet has been created of species to look out for, listed in order of their first flowering in 2020. There are also a few notes attached to help people make sense of it all.  Apologies to anyone who’s favourite species didn’t make the list. I’ve removed most sedges, grasses and rushes as these can be particularly tricky when it comes to deciding if they’re flowering or not. Which means it’s a much more colourful list this year! Lots of big showy things that shouldn’t be too hard to hunt for. As explained in the text, I’ve skewed the list towards things that should start flowering between now and the end of April since this is the time when we’re most likely to be in need of some botanical distraction.