Early bloomers

Tuesday 21 January 2014, 18:46

Kate Lewthwaite Kate Lewthwaite Phenology expert

Nature is continuing to respond to the mild weather with records of trees coming into bud burst and snowdrops and hazel flowering.

The early sightings of flowering species conform to a long term trend of spring gradually arriving earlier in the UK, highlighted by data recorded on Nature’s Calendar since 2001. Over the last 25 years flowers have bloomed up to 12 days earlier than previously.

Catkins - Deborah Rigden Catkins by Deborah Rigden

So far we have records from members of the public of snowdrops, lesser celandine and hazel in flower, along with elder trees in bud burst and hawthorn coming into leaf.

Did you know that regarded by many as a wildflower, snowdrops were not recorded as growing wild in the UK until the 1770s? Most colonies are probably garden escapees though it is still thought some may be native, particularly in southwest England. Snowdrops are certainly native to a large part of Europe, as far north as Brittany, where they grow in damp woods and meadows. The average UK flowering date is 27 January, but in eight years out of the past 14, we have had a first sighting in November!

Bright yellow lesser celandines are one of the first woodland flowers of the year. The shiny flowers have eight to twelve petals and glossy dark green heart-shaped leaves. It’s family name in Latin: Ranunculus means 'little frog or tadpole', this might be a reference to the damp conditions that they are commonly found in  or to the fact that the flower buds look like tadpoles.

The poet William Wordsworth wrote in his ode to the celandine: "I have seen thee, high and low, Thirty years or more, and yet T'was a face I did not know."

On average we expect to see celandines appear by 5 March but in several years during the project we have had first sightings before even Christmas has passed.

Anyone can get involved and recording is simple and we need your help. To find out what flowers plants trees and shrubs to record all year round.

Comments

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1.

    That is interesting, I didn't know many snowdrops aren't native! I have seen quite a lot of Hazel catkins and the pretty little red female flowers too, as well as a few snowdrops. Did you know in 'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' written in 1906, there were many similar nature events occurring: Wild Arum began to appear and Elderberry leaf burst had begun in early January. Hazel, Primroses, Snowdrops, Daisies and Yew were all flowering towards the end of January and by early February, Blackbird, Dunnock and Robin nests were found with eggs in. The author, Edith Holden, was delighted to see the early signs of spring, as I am today!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 2.

    I have a copy of that book: her paintings were amazing, so detailed and it's fascinating to compare what she saw with what we see today. Sad that she died so young (drowned in the river at Kew).

    There are snowdrops in flower in our garden in the Scottish Borders and our deciduous honeysuckle, which had become leafless in November, had new green leaves again by Christmas: it's in full leaf now.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    They are such beautiful and accurate paintings, and she had such wonderful knowledge of all of the plant species! It is, I wish we still had such an abundance of wildlife like she did back then.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    Up here in Cumbria, I have had snowdrops flowering in the garden for the last few weeks and crocus leaves are starting to push up through the grass which seems really early. I've also noticed, as I am a terrible sleeper, that the birds are starting to sing at around four a.m. I thought I was imagining things the other morning as it was still dark, though the moon was really bright, but it was definitely bird song which I would usually associate with Spring.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 5.

    Snowdrops for the last wee k or so in the garden, alongside Grape Hyacinth and a few wallflowers and primula. First daffodil this morning.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    we have a pair of mistle thrushes nesting in a tree outside our office in cardiff. as far as i can work out, there are at least three chicks in the nest. they are being fed regularly by both parents. the nest and eggs/chics must have survived the recent storms though the nest is placed in quite an exposed place.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Edith Holden's diary entry for this day (23rd January) in 1906 reads:

    Sharp frost and thick fog in the early morning. The fog cleared off about 9.30am and the sun shone brightly. Went for a country walk. Every twig on every tree and bush was outlined in silver tracery against the sky; some of the dead grasses and seed-vessels growing by the road-side were especially beautiful, every detail of them sparkling with frost crystals in the sunshine. I saw great flocks of rooks and starlings, down on the fields, and a pair of beautiful bullfinches in a hawthorn bush. The gorse was in full blossom till within a week or two ago, but the sharp frosts of the past week have nipped off the bloom. The mild winter has brought out the hazel catkins wonderfully early, the small green flowers are fully expanded on some of the catkins, and the pretty little red stars of the female flowers are appearing. The green leaves are out on the woodbine too making little spots of green among the undergrowth".

    I've quoted her to give people a taste of what the diary is like: that entry is accompanied by a beautifully detailed painting of ivy, hazel catkins and woodbine. The whole thing is done in facsimile so that what you see is her own handwriting in faded brown ink. It's very well done and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    She also includes old country proverbs, rhymes, mottoes etc. It's fascinating.

    Back to 2014 though and the cranesbills in my garden are now in full new leaf too and there are daffodils pushing through. It's sheltered and south-facing, but even so, I've never seen so much leaf growth in January before.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    I have a rose up the front of my east-facing house (in north Kent), I don't know if it's a climber or rambler but it's very confused! It's had 2 or 3 flowers on it since early/mid December and now has 20 plus buds on it!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    a. golden eagle
    b. eider duck
    c. stoat
    d. chris

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 11.

    It's January 27th and I have and evergreen Clematis Armandii in flower! I know they are early spring flowering but isn't this abit early? I too have seen lots of catkins about.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    I'm in London and I've seen daffodils and crocus out already, and the hazel trees near our house are thick with catkins.

 

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