The dates for this year’s event were set by the BSBI as 30th December 2017 – 2nd January 2018. The weather was mixed in the final days of December, but a check of a weather forecast site predicted overcast conditions on the Isle of Wight for 30th December. However no rain was forecast until after dark, so a group of nine set off northwards from Winchester House car park to explore Lake cliffs. This was new territory for all of us!
We walked down Littlestairs path, along the Esplanade to Ferncliff path, back up to the cliff to make a brief detour to Battery Gardens and then returned to our starting point along the cliff top path two hours later.
New Year Plant Hunt rules require the flowers to have anthers or stigmas visible to qualify as ‘flowering’. Around the car park and on our way to the cliff, we found creeping buttercup, daisy, common cat’s ear, and winter heliotrope. On the cliff face we found broom, gorse, and greater periwinkle. Looking along the talus slope and behind the beach huts at the base of the cliff provided the opportunity to add naturalised plants such as red-hot poker and Hebe ‘Blue gem’ to our list.
Hydrangea proved to be the subject of much debate -could we count it or not? ‘When is a flower not a flower?’ – when you are observing are sterile bracts and there are no anthers or stigmas, it doesn’t count!!
Re-ascending the cliff gave us a pot marigold flower in pristine condition. The walls around Battery Gardens enabled us to find ivy-leaved toadflax, pellitory-of-the-wall and Sicilian chamomile and there was a primrose in flower at the edge of the grass. A quick tally from the mobile phone screen gave an approximate total of 45 species so far, so a target of 60 was set. The clifftop yielded a fine specimen of field scabious and a patch of red valerian amongst others. Back at the car park our provisional total was 58, so much searching under fences and on walls occurred to find keel-fruited cornsalad and trailing bellflower.
Checking of the results later made our total 61, though the BSBI website does not entirely agree; that comes down to the group leader’s issues with the mobile phone app recording form! However, we were top of the leader board for quite some time until the Swanage and Cornwall groups got going! And yes, the weather kept dry for us, except for the briefest of showers at Battery Gardens. The final results are here.