New Year Plant Hunt Day 1 - East Kent Coast

Despite my current illness I was determined to participate in the BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt which ran over 4 days from 29th December to 1st January inclusive. Full details of the purrpose of the hunt can be found at but it's basically a way to determine what is in flower at this time over the whole of Britain and Ireland, with results compiled by groups and individuals and collated by the BSBI.

Where possible I try to re-visit the places I recorded in previous hunts as I think this will give the data more meaning over the years.

For this first day of the hunt, I went with my partner and two grand daughters to the Kent coast, first to Folkestone Leas then a short stop at St Margaret's Bay afterwards. I didn't photograph everything, but here's some of what we found in flower.

A dodgy photo of Shepherd's Purse.
Capsella bursa-pastoris 

Red Valerian, unfortunately at distance in a breeze, so a blurred photo!
Centranthus ruber

A common seaside escape from cultivation is the Seaside Daisy, this one growing in cracks in the sea wall.
Erigeron glaucus

Bristly Oxtongue
Helminthotheca echioides

Heracleum sphondylium 
Cat's Ear
Hypochaeris radicata
 Red Dead-Nettle
Lamium purpureum 

Annual Mercury flowers which have no petals.
Mercurialis annua

Creeping Cinquefoil is a species I'd not seen in flower before in the previous hunts. Nicely spotted for me by my partner Elizabeth.
Potentilla reptans
Rosemary is an attractive and nice smelling bush grown in gardens often used in cooking. I saw it present in a few gardens along the way, but also found it had escaped and naturalised in two locations; one on a grass verge not near houses and the other half way up a sea wall!
Rosmarinus officinalis
Sea Campion on the shingle and on the sea wall, both flowering as they were last year.
Silene uniflora

Oxford Ragwort with its pointy leaves.

Senecio squalidus


Senecio vulgaris
I found a single Butcher's Broom bush and I searched it hoping to find an early flower. The photo below shows I found a few. These flowers are very tiny!
Ruscus aculeatus 
Smooth Sowthistle 

Sonchus oleraceus

Gorse featured in many hunter's lists and mine was no exception.
Ulex europaeus

My last photo from Folkestone (below) was another garden escape, the Greater Periwinkle.
Many people find it hard to tell this apart from Lesser Periwinkle. However the flowers of Greater Periwinkle are significantly larger and the leaves have a line of tiny hairs along the edges. You can see them with the naked eye but a hand lens is easier!

Vinca major

We then drove to St. Margaret's Bay just north of Dover for a short walk around the car park and cliff base to start a second list. This time only myself and the youngest granddaughter took part, with the others resting in the car looking out over some fine sea views of the Dover Straits.

Something's gone wrong with the blog formatting here and I can't seem to fix it, apologies!

At this rather unlikely location we found several species already detailed above from Folkestone and some other species, including two I'd not seen here before, more of those later.

I noticed some Rock Samphire flowering in the car park by the sea wall. Unfortunately I blurred the close up photo. I later noticed loads of it on the cliffs, though I couldn't get close enough to those to see if they were flowering.

Crithmum maritimum

My Granddaughter then noticed these small specks of pink on some shingle at the back of the car park. I'd seen these in several locations in Noth Kent previously, so immediately recognised it as Musk Storksbill. A rub of the fingers along the leaves confirmed the unpleasant smell from the numerous glandular hairs on this plant.
I'd not seen this species here before.

                                                                     Erodium moschatum

The second surprise was this garden escape below, a Love Lies Bleeding Amaranthus at the back of the car park. It most likely arrived via dumped soil.

Amaranthus cruentus 


A very common garden escape is Winter Heliotrope. I also found this in flower at Folkstone, but the photos below came out better. They are a rather thuggish plant and their big rounded leaves can stifle out other species as evidenced along miles of rural road verges in Kent and East Sussex, but they smell very nice.

Petasites fragrans 


Buckshorn Plantain is very common on the coast and along salted road verges inland. I saw hundreds with dried up seeded spikes, so was very surprised to find one in flower and in perfect condition.

Plantago coronopus 

So ended Day 1 of the hunt. We had a great time and it was good to get outside in the fresh air after being cooped up for the Christmas festivities. I didn't find as many species in flower as last year which shows the value of re-visiting the same venues each year. A couple that spring to mind were Lesser Celadine and Three cornered Leek. I saw the leaves of both species but none were flowering. Unfortunately my illness slowed me down somewhat and we ran out of time as only 3 hours are allocated per day for the hunt.

Days 2,3 and 4 will follow soon. Keep watching!

Regards Dave



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