Hundreds of wildflowers found blooming at New Year


No fewer than 629 species of flora were found to be in bloom during the 13th annual New Year Plant Hunt.

Taking place between 30 December 2023 and 2 January 2024, the citzen-science survey attracted its highest-ever number of participants. Some 3,336 people took part, submitting more than 21,000 records of plants in flower over the four-day period.

Results from the event, which is organised by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), can be explored on the BSBI website.

Lesser Celendine entered the Top Twenty list of most frequent flowering plants for the first time (BSBI).

This year's Hunt was preceded by an unusually mild but wet December across the UK – the temperature was 2.8°C above average, according to UK Met Office data. This mild weather allowed 'autumn stragglers' to keep flowering as they were not knocked back by frost. This happened in last year's Hunt, which followed severe frosts in early December 2022, contributing to the coldest winter for a decade. This year's total of 629 species represents a 30% increase compared to last year and the third-highest total in the history of the Hunt.

The top three most frequently seen species, as in previous years, were Daisy, Groundsel and Dandelion, all plants that are expected to be flowering at this time of year. Common Ragwort and Smooth Hawk's-beard, common plants of urban habitats, and Lesser Celandine, a woodland plant, entered the Top Twenty list of most frequent plants for the first time, displacing Hogweed, Ivy and Smooth Sow-thistle. Some 35% of plant species recorded were non-natives.

As in previous years, the milder south and the coastal areas of Britain and Ireland had the highest numbers of species in flower – 100 species in Swanage, Dorset, 87 in Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, and 81 in Taunton, Somerset. As in previous years, urban areas also tended to have more non-native species in flower than rural areas, as there are more sheltered and disturbed places with warm microclimates where alien plants can thrive: the 'heat-island' effect.

Julia Hanmer, Chief Executive of BSBI, said: "It's been inspirational to see all the participation and results coming into this year's New Year Plant Hunt! It was a joy to take part myself and also to hear about other people's experiences on social media, with so many people joining the hunt for the first time this year. There was a fantastic sense of the botanical community coming together to learn about and contribute to our understanding of wild plants. Thank you to everyone who took part."

You can find plenty more comments and photos from the Hunt on X by searching for #NewYearPlantHunt.