The New Year Plant Hunt in Sussex

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Picture of Aubrieta deltoidea

As 2018 inexorably turned into 2019 botanists from all over the country were out in force. It was the eighth BSBI New Year Plant Hunt and members of the society and several others recorded plants across the county.

Jill Oakley gives us a great introduction to the project and to the Sussex contribution: “Sussex botanists turned out from all over the county to take part in the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt which took place from Saturday 29 December 2018 to Tuesday 1 January 2019. Twenty three lists from Sussex were sent in and four of those came in the top twenty in Britain and Ireland for the number of plant species seen in flower. In West Sussex the hunt in Pagham was fifth overall with 84 species, the Chichester list of 70 came in as equal thirteenth, Storrington was eighteenth with 63 plants spotted and in East Sussex Hastings came nineteenth with a list of 62 plants in flower.

Map of recording sites in Sussex
Recording sites in Sussex

“Taking part in the annual BSBI New Year Plant Hunt is fun and a great way to get outdoors and botanise after Christmas festivities and is a splendid introduction to the New Year. The plant hunts take place on any or all of the four chosen days around New Year’s Day and can be carried out by individuals or in a group. Plants recorded must be in flower and each hunt has a time limit of three hours in the field, which includes travelling between places within the chosen area. However, the clock can be stopped for breaks such as snacks, hot drinks or just to warm up. The list of flowers recorded and places surveyed are sent into the BSBI.  From the whole of the UK 708 lists were received and 642 species recorded; the lists and locations of all the hunts are displayed on the BSBI dedicated website.”

Dawn supplied these pictures of some of their highlights:

And Kate was out in Plumpton:

Helen sent in this account of one of the excursions in the east of the county: “Four of us met on Saturday 29 December to participate in the BSBI’s New Year Plant Hunt in Hastings.  We listed the first 45 species in and around south-facing allotments.  We then explored several roadsides, woodland and green spaces to reach a total of 62 plant species in flower.  In the picture below, three of us are studying Polypogon virdis on a pavement edge.  Strangest find was perhaps Papaver rhoeas, still with all its petals – just!  The weather was dry and relatively mild, hence the good haul.”

Polypogon viridis and the Hastings Three

I ended up going out on 1 January with Tom, Rachel and Luśka, and our Twitter posts can tell the story.

Wendy followed on from previous years with her continuing explorations of Uckfield: “Given that the run up to New Year has been so mild I was expecting to find a good number of wild and naturalised plants in flower during my Uckfield plant hunt but would I beat my previous highest score of 34?


Galinsoga quadriradiata (Shaggy Soldier)

My first plant was Galinsoga quadriradiata (Shaggy Soldier) – one of the many odd little weeds that I found near shops. It was a first for my New Year list, which was a great start.


Geranium robertianum (Herb Robert)

I say little weeds but my regulars – Geranium robertianum (Herb Robert), Capsella bursa-pastoris (Shepherd’s Purse) etc. seemed to be bigger and more numerous than usual.


Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye Daisy)

The main trend in my hunt was the sheer number of summer flowers that had made it through to New Year. The Leucanthemum vulgare (Oxeye Daisy) that I found by the Fire Station was a real surprise, as was the Geum urbanum (Herb Bennet) that I found in Lime Tree Avenue.

There were just a few spring flowers coming out. I always check the Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn) hedge between the allotments and the bypass and, sure enough, there were some small flowers scattered amongst the not-quite bare branches. A couple paused, curious about the strange woman photographing the apparently bare hedge. I explained about the Plant Hunt and suddenly stories were tumbling out about their daffodils budding early and other strange plant behaviour they had observed.


Fumaria muralis (Common Ramping Fumitory)

This was the first New Year Plant Hunt in which I ran out of time before I ran out of flowers, which is not surprising as I found 45 different species blooming. The processing and recording took quite an effort too. One, a Fumaria muralis (Common Ramping Fumitory) caused a fair stir on Twitter. A couple of experts looked at my photo and suggested, fairly strongly, that it was Fumaria bastardii. I had another go at keying it out using my Streeter/Collins guide. I had my photos and a sample. I ended up shredding the poor little flowers with a pin to try and get at the detail. However I decided to stick with muralis because, at this time of year, plants are going to be a bit untypical and the keying out was doubtful before I even got to the divide between muralis and bastardii. My lovely Flora of Sussex tells me that bastardii is known in very few Sussex locations and it is more likely to found in disturbed ground than at the feet of an established hedge. I will go back to the site in more typical growing conditions and look again.”

Sam Bosanquet was out and about in Chichester and Lurgashall:

Many thanks to everyone who took part. The final report on the plant hunt from BSBI is available on the BSBI website, and the other lists submitted were from:

And there was a piece on R4: