week #2 preview : first flowering

Week 2 Preview :25th March

Week 2 runs from tomorrow, 26th March, until next Wednesday, April Fools’ Day. We’ve had sunny days and frosty nights lately (frosts even in Taunton), and the forecast for the next few days is dry and sunny too – which makes it deeply frustrating that there is now an increasingly urgent demand from Government that we stay at home and only venture forth for essential journeys, and for purposes of daily exercise. Any continuation of this little project will obviously have to work within these understandable and necessary constraints.

If you live in the countryside, of course, you may be able to get out a little more easily (and have more botanically productive habitats close to hand) than those of us in the towns; but all of us, wherever we live, will be finding getting out to botanise less and less easy over the coming days and weeks. 

It’s amazing, though, how much one can see in one’s local street, hedgebank, park or road verge, and even, of course, in one’s own garden – as shown by Linda’s Common Dog-violet, Caroline’s Field Wood-rush,and Helena’s Lords-and-Ladies.This week, during my regular garden patrols (which now include, much to the amusement of the neighbours, a few press-ups and ‘standing runs’), I have seen bee-flies, flower bees, small tortoiseshells, comma, holly blue and brimstone. And whenever we sit on the garden bench, a friendly peacock (the butterfly, I hasten to add) comes and perches on the wall beside us.

On the botanical front, too, things are gathering pace in the garden – Lesser Celandines, Ficaria verna, are at full throttle, dandelions – yes, dandelions! – are starting to look their best too, and there are Primroses, Primula vulgaris, and Early Dog-violets, Viola reichenbachiana, everywhere. 

So, despite the constraints, I thought it would still be worthwhile sending out a ‘Week 2 list’ of 17 potential targets, seven of which are carried over from last week, namely:

Greater Chickweed, Stellaria neglecta; Shining Crane’s-bill, Geranium lucidum; Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus; Hedge Mustard, Sisymbrium officinale;  Horse-chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum;  Crack-willow, Salix fragilis; Charlock, Sinapis arvensis 

But to these we can now add the following ten spp:

Dove’s-foot Crane’s-bill, Geranium molle; Woodruff, Galium odoratum; Glaucous Sedge, Carex flacca; Bugle, Ajuga reptans; Pendulous Sedge, Carex pendula; Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris; Beaked Hawk’s-beard, Crepis vesicaria; Red Clover, Trifolium pratense; Common Vetch, Vicia sativa; Hedgerow Crane’s-bill, Geranium pyrenaicum. 

And one more to look forward to, probably not until the 1st or 2nd week of April, but – who knows? – it could just make an appearance in March: Early-purple Orchid, Orchis mascula.

As last week, a few obvious candidates for the coming days are missing from the list, due to the fact that they’re already flowering, at least in the Taunton area: e.g. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata, Wild Cherry, Prunus avium, Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Southern Wood-rush, Luzula forsteri, Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, Ash, Fraxinus excelsior, Marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris and Silver Birch, Betula pendula.

I’d love to hear from anyone seeing any of these (or any other) species coming into flower in the next week, preferably by email simonleach@phonecoop.coop

Many thanks, take care everyone, and best wishes.


Week 1 Review : 25th March from Simon

A fantastic response!  I’ve been inundated, and some really good records too. I’m starting to wish we’d set up something like this a few years ago!  Thanks to everyone who emailed, texted of ‘WhatsApped’ during the week – in no particular order, Steve Parker, Liz McDonnell, Ellen McDouall, Georgina Shuckburgh, Margaret Webster, Caroline Giddens, Ro FitzGerald, Christine Louden, Gill Read, Linda Everton, David Hawkins, Helena Crouch.  (Hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.)

In last week’s email I listed 9 spp that I had already seen in flower in the Taunton area, but which I would have expected, in a ‘normal’ year, to start flowering during the last week. Of these, no-one reported seeing Bluebellor Wood Spurge, but I think the rest were all mentioned ‘in dispatches’. Several people reported the first flowering of Moschatel: Margaret near Lords Wood on the 12th, David in the Portishead area on the 15th, Steve in N. Petherton on 16th or 17th, Gill at Postlebury on the 20th, Caroline at Tivington (nr Minehead) on the 21st, and Georgina at Nordrach on Mendip on the 23rd. (My own date in the Taunton area was the 14th, at Fyne Court.) 

Our Week 1 ‘target list’ comprised 19 spp, 12 of which were recorded in flower by at least one person during the week. This was clearly ‘wood-rush week’. Many people (although not me, sadly!) are starting to see Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris,in flower. Unfortunately the places where I might go to see it here aren’t really within easy walking distance, and I now have no car – for reasons too complicated to explain here. (And not sure, now, how useful a car would actually be.) David had it – that’s Luzula, not the car! – in Portishead on the 15th, Liz in Wedmore on the 18th, Steve in N. Petherton around the 17th, Gill at Postlebury on the 20th, Margaret at Winford on the 21st, and Caroline, on her lawn in Minehead, on the 22nd. Hairy Wood-rush, Luzula pilosa, was also spotted in flower, by me on the 20th, at Thurlbear, and by Caroline at Tivington on the 21st

Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis, had already been seen by a few of you in ‘Week 0’, i.e. during the week prior to the start of Week 1: Georgina had it in flower at Hinton Blewett on the 11th, and Margaret near Lords Wood on the 12th. These are much earlier dates than my own in previous years for the Taunton area, but this is probably because it doesn’t seem to be terribly common around here – so the chances of stumbling across it when it’s just starting to flower are much lower as a result. 

Wood-sedge, Carex sylvatica,was seen just starting to flower at Thurlbear on the 20th, and then on the 22nd Margaret spotted it at Bithams Wood. She also spied a single flower of Goldilocks Buttercup, Ranunculus auricomus, and some (unusually early) Sweet Vernal-grass, Anthoxanthum odoratum. Also very early was Warfaring-tree, Viburnum lantana, seen by me near Corfe on the 19th – 13 days earlier than my previous earliest, in 2012.Cowslips, Primula veris,have been popping into flower all over the place, amazingly with three of us all reporting them for the first time in flower on the 20th: me at Thurlbear, Ro at Kilton Church, and David at Portishead. Caroline and Linda have both seen Common Dog-violet, Viola riviniana, with Linda spotting it in her garden – and she provided excellent photos to prove it! 

Only two people have so far reported Lords-and-Ladies, the species that set this hare running in the first place! Ro saw it, in all its glory, on the 22nd in the Kilve area, while Helena had it in her garden on the 24th, her delight at seeing it being pinged through as a WhatsApp message complete with a very nice photo!

As yet, we have had only singleton records for Common Stork’s-bill, Erodium cicutarium (Margaret, on the 20th at Sand Bay), Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp montanum (Linda, on the 23rd in woods up near Wellington Monument), and Galium aparine (me, in Taunton on the 22nd). 

Taken overall, these dates are mostly very early in comparison with 2008-17 average first flowering dates for the Taunton area. This week, Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, Common Dog-violet,Cuckooflower, Goldilocks Buttercup, Wood-sedge, Cleavers, and Bush-vetch, Vicia sepium, all recorded their earliest first flowering dates ‘since records began’ (i.e. since 2008!). And, last but not least, I had Wood Melick, Melica uniflora, on the 20th at Thurlbear – an extraordinary date, almost four weeks earlier than my previous earliest back in 2008 and 2011.

A great idea from Simon

Dear SRPG members —

I was walking Gilly down by the river yesterday morning, reflecting on the general grimness of our present situation, and expecting that many of us will now be taking steps towards self-isolation/social distancing. And reflecting, too, on the likelihood that our spring and summer meetings programme may also end up having to be substantially curtailed or cancelled.

I was also lamenting the fact that my recording of first flowering dates (which I’ve been doing since 2008) has been a bit lackadaisical lately, not least because I just haven’t really been feeling in the mood for it. And then I saw my first Arum maculatum, and immediately I felt I wanted to share the enjoyment of it with the rest of the group! Seeing something is one thing, sharing what you’ve seen with your mates is another thing entirely…

Anyway, I sat with the Arum while the dog chewed a stick, and it got me thinking that maybe others in the group might also enjoy helping to record some of this year’s first flowerings. What I’ve got in mind is something along the following lines: I would endeavour to send an email each week to Ellen, for onward circulation round the group. This would have a list of, say, 10-20 species needing to be looked for in flower during that week, and would ask anyone venturing out to let me know if they’ve seen any of them, by means of email to simonleach@phonecoop.coop. No need for lengthy details: just the species, date and a rough location will do. And then, following the first email, weekly round robin emails would summarise highlights of the previous week, and give a list of the next species to be targeted.

I floated the idea round a few in the group, and there was a general feeling that this might be a good thing to try. Several people have suggested more sophisticated ways of keeping in contact and ‘posting’ our observations directly on the website, so maybe this could morph in the coming weeks into something less ‘clunky’ than round robin emails. Who knows? But, for this week anyway, let’s just make a start with this email, and then see where it takes us. We’ll run the weeks from Thursday to Wednesday, so Week 1 starts tomorrow! But bear in mind this is supposed to be fun, so only take part if you really fancy it, and just dip in and out as you wish.

Now, as you’ll have noticed, this year spring seems to be very early. Looking at average FFDs for the decade 2008-17, I would have expected species coming into flower in the next week or so to have included Adoxa moschatellina, Anemone nemorosa, Stellaria holostea, Saxifraga tridactylites, Medicago arabica, Prunus laurocerasus, Viola hirta, Euphorbia amygdaloides and Hyacinthoides non-scripta. But none of these are on the first list of ‘targets’ because, at least around Taunton, they have already started flowering. Are they in bloom yet in your own area, I wonder?  If they aren’t, it might be interesting to see when they do start flowering – so do let me know your first dates for these if you get them coming into flower over the next week or two.

Right, here goes. Week 1, 19th – 25th March. And here’s a list of 19 species that could be ‘next in line’ to start flowering (probably in next 10-20 days or so), but which aren’t yet blooming in the Taunton area.

Stellaria neglecta, Luzula pilosa, Viola riviniana, Alliaria petiolata, Geranium lucidum, Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp montanum, Raunuculus auricomus, Carex sylvatica, Acer pseudoplatanus, Sisymbrium officinale, Primula veris, Luzula campestris, Erodium cicutarium, Cardamine pratensis, Aesculus hippocastanum, Veronica chamaedrys, Salix fragilis, Sinapis arvensis, Galium aparine. 

Have you seen any of these yet? If you have, or when you do see them, let me know! And also keep a note of anything that you think might be especially early – it may be on a later list and you’ll be kicking yourself you never noted it down…

Take good care, and best wishes. 


Thanks from Dee


Just to say a big thank you to everyone who wrote up reports of field meetings. They have all been gathered in , so I am a happy bunny!

Happy to receive Articles at any time, deadline 15 January. Get in touch if that causes anyone a problem.

Thanks again.

Dee Holladay, Editor SRPG Newsletter

Tyntesfield Meeting

What a great meeting at Tyntesfield yesterday! Great botanising, including lots of rosettes of Spiranthes spiralis in front of the house, and a few spikes in a new location. Picnic lunch in rain and sun, and a marvelous tea back at Pam’s house to celebrate her big birthday.