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.