First Flowering : how it all began

To see a paper from SANHS journal, written in 2011, which explains some of the background and what it was that got Simon started, click here

This year’s beginning: Week 1 : 18th March, 2020

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 Lords-and-Ladies, 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 include 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 by email if they’ve seen any of them. 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 this could 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 Moschatel, Adoxa moschatellina, Wood Anemone, Anemone nemorosa, Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, Rue-leaved saxifrage, Saxifraga tridactylites, Spotted Medick, Medicago arabica, Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, Hairy Violet, Viola hirta, Wood Spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides and Bluebell, 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.

Greater Chickweed, Stellaria neglecta;Hairy Wood-rush, Luzula pilosa;Common Dog-violet, Viola riviniana;Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata;Shining Crane’s-bill, Geranium lucidum;Yellow Archangel, Lamiastrum galeobdolon ssp montanum;Goldilocks Buttercup, Ranunculus auricomus;Wood-sedge, Carex sylvatica; Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus;Hedge Mustard, Sisymbrium officinale;Cowslip, Primula veris;Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris;Common Stork’s-bill, Erodium cicutarium;Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis;Horse-chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum;Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys; Crack-willow, Salix fragilis; Charlock, Sinapis arvensis; Cleavers, 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…