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More Than 600 Plant Species Flowering At The Wrong Time Because Of Confusing Winter Conditions

27 January 2016, 9:05 am EST By Alyssa Navarro Tech Times
An unusual number of plant species flowering across Britain and Ireland has left botanists astonished. From daisies to the red campion, experts recorded flowers that bloomed at the wrong time due to confusing weather conditions.  ( Paul Reynolds | Flickr )

In the United Kingdom, particularly in Greater London, the warmest winter solstice was recorded on December 22, 2015.

MeteoGroup, a group of forecasters, recorded temperatures of 14.3 degrees Celsius or 58 degrees Fahrenheit during the morning of that day. The temperature was predicted to last until Christmas Eve.

Why is it important? It's because the incident had set off an early "explosion" of flowering plant species at the wrong time.

A major survey across Britain and Ireland revealed that more than 600 species of British wildflowers had unusually bloomed on New Year's Day 2016.

An Astonishing Number Of Blooming Flowers

In a typical cold winter, experts would expect no more than 20 to 30 types of wild plants to be in bloom at the end of the year. These plant species include dandelion, gorse and daisy.

However, the survey that was conducted by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) found that on Jan. 1, at least 612 plant species were actually flowering, including species from late spring and high summer.

In total, there were about 8,568 plants in bloom across Britain and Ireland, a number incredibly greater than that of last year, which was only 368.

This occurred without any precedence, and has left botanists astonished.

"It's incredible. I've never seen anything like it," said BSBI's Head of Science Kevin Walker.

Ryan Clark, coordinator of the BSBI project, said the milder areas of Britain, south and west, had the highest numbers of blooming species, but there were also more than 60 flowering species reported in Edinburgh.

He said lists from Ireland also had consistently high numbers of plants in flower at New Year.

"It was astonishing to see so many records flooding in, from Guernsey to Shetland and Kent to Donegal," said Clark.

Should This Be A Cause Of Concern?

Gardeners were concerned that the high number of plant species flowering so early will herald an early spring. Walker assured the public there's no reason for concern.

"There does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring," he said.

Plant species that usually bloom in spring, such as cow parsley, lesser celandine and sweet violet, were recorded, but they make up less than a fifth of the total, Walker said.

What else were recorded? Walker said three quarters of the plants were "autumn stragglers" such as the red campion, yarrow and red deadnettle that had carried on blooming in the mild weather condition. The dandelion and the daisy were the two most recorded plant species, and these two are expected to be flowering at this time of the year, he said.

The 612 plant species represent a quarter of the species that flower regularly in Britain and Ireland. A third of these species are foreign plants that came from warmer climates. These plants are able to continue blooming until the hard winter frost knocks them down.

Urban areas tended to have more species in flower than in rural ones, previous BBSI surveys revealed. This was expected, as there were more sheltered areas with warm temperatures in which alien and native plants can survive, Walker said.

Is The Incident Linked To Climate Change?

As the previous year was considered to be the warmest year on record, Walker said the mass out-of-time flowering suggests substantial climate shift.

"It is what might be expected with climate change," he said.

Meanwhile, the BSBI's annual survey is likely to expand and transform into a valuable tool for measuring changes in the environment.

"The New Year Plant Hunt results will help us build up a clearer, up-to-date picture of what's going on," added Walker.

Photo : Paul Reynolds | Flickr

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