Late 2012 winter stirrings

Just what has been happening in the world of phenology………………. could nature be stirring already?

It may only be the 1st January but just as last year, there was some unseasonal activity. Firstly, in the form of flowering Woodland Snowdrops and secondly, flowering Winter Aconite, blooming around the same dates as in 2012, see here and also here

Again, this time around, these sightings will closely correlate to the  local weather conditions. One being, a general lack of Air Frosts over recent days and perhaps, the incessant rainfall, as shown below.

December 2012 Air temperature highs and lows
December 2012 Air temperature highs and lows
December 2012 rainfall
December 2012 rainfall

Intriguingly, looking at their expected emergence dates, both events have now moved forward to the 11th January consequently. Woodland Snowdrop captured below, emerged on the 28th December.

Woodland Snowdrop (Galanthus_nivalis) in bloom
Woodland Snowdrop (Galanthus_nivalis) in bloom

With Winter Aconite emerging on the 30th December 2012.

Winter Aconite (Eranthis_hyemalis) in bloom
Winter Aconite (Eranthis_hyemalis) in bloom

As we head into 2013, I wonder what delights the year will hold.

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Two more indicators of seasonal change

Dear readers, I have two further events as mentioned in yesterday’s post. They are as follows.


I first witnessed a truly wild Primrose (Primula vulgaris) in flower on 7th January but as on other occasions, I have seen other varieties elsewhere, even in November and December this year just gone. However, if taking my 7th January date as gospel, my list of dates range from the certain Novembers or Decembers through to 2nd March. The adjusted mean date for all 16 records being 23rd January.

Primrose (Primula Vulgaris) in flower

Primrose with its vernacular name of “spinkie” or more appropriately “prima rosa” meaning first flower/first rose is always a welcome sight early in the season. In the past there were a very common sight and were picked profusely. However, numbers in the wild have dwindled a little but remain in good numbers in the right habitats. Having a scattered distribution, Primroses are seen in ancient woodlands or adorning hedge banks, and are often planted in gardens as they can be widely purchased. They also have a habit of colonising motorway embankments. They are able to self-pollinate, however bees and certain Lepidoptera will also help in this process.

In addition, Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was flowering locally for the first time on 7th January. The current range of dates extends from 21st December through to 13th March, this being based on 16 records. The adjusted mean date works out at 7th February, a full two weeks earlier than in Gilbert White’s day.

Lesser Celandine (Ranuncula ficaria) in flower

Gilbert White, the 18th Century naturalist quoted these delightful little yellow star-like flowers as blooming on average around 21st February. Like many other phenological indicators however, the current climate as per my figures above denotes otherwise. Lesser Celandines have possessed various names over the years. Known names have included “spring messengers” or “pilewort” and a Greek derivation of “chelidonia” meaning a “swallow” you can see the fondness associating with them. The swallow connection being especially bizarre as this migrant species arrives well after the Lesser Celandine has started flowering. Moreover, folk now believe this was misquoted as it were more likely associated with the unrelated Greater Celandine. Being another member of the Ranunculaceae – buttercup family, they are sometimes looked upon as weeds, which, can soon carpet many a meadow and field. Some farmers believe the plants to be responsible for poisoning cattle and sheep.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

The Daffodils are out already!

I have recorded the first emergence of Daffodil on 16 occasions and this year’s flowering is one of the earlier dates, having witnessed a variety in flower on 2nd January 2012. My range of dates covers the 1st December through to the 2nd March with the mean being 29th January.

Welsh Daffodils, courtesy of wikipedia
Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) courtesy of Natural History Museum -
Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) courtesy of Natural History Museum

Daffodil – Narcissus (plant)

Daffodils come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colours. The parts of the flower known as the perianth and corona can differ in colouration or equally contain the same pigments. They bloom in a variety of yellows, whites, oranges, pinks, reds or even greens.

Known by various vernacular names such as Daffys, Lent Lily’s, Easter lily’s, the true Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) often flowers between the months of March and April. Because of this, they are often associated with Mothering Sunday and Palm Sunday. I personally, have records of the Wild Daffodil in bloom on an average date of 9th March and there are particular woods in the United Kingdom where only the wild variety grow. However, these places are getting rarer, due to the destruction of their ancient woodland sites. Dependent on where you are located within the UK, some  varieties of Narcissi bloom as early as late November.

Farmers and landowners once harvested wild Narcissuses to provide them with a welcome additional income. As with others in the plant kingdom, there have been occasions of poisoning where children had mistakenly eaten Daffodil bulbs, believing them to be onions.  

Kind Regards

Tony Powell


And now the Snowdrops

According to my records, I have noted the first emergence of Woodland Snowdrops on 16 occasions. This year’s flowering, as with Winter Aconite has been witnessed on the earliest date on record, being the 30th December. The full range of dates from 30th December right through to 20th January. Another 2011 oddity in that Woodland Snowdrops was noted flowering twice in one year.

Snowdrops Greyfriars Dunwich 220211 7346

The above picture courtesy of Finn Holding’s Flickr site.

Woodland Snowdrop – Galanthus nivalis

Known by its various vernacular names such as Candlemas Bells, Snow Piercers and Dingle-dangle to name a few, the Woodland Snowdrop is a joy to see when it first emerges. The Woodland Snowdrop’s Greek name Galanthus comes from the word “milk flower” and it is the British version is one of a genus of at least 20 members. Some members of the genus do actually bloom in summer or autumn despite the name but thankfully, that appears not to be an issue with Galanthus nivalis. The Woodland Snowdrop has leaf tips especially hardened for breaking through frozen ground. Having similar traits to Winter Aconite both can be blooming for the first time on the exact same date. However, the Woodland Snowdrop tends to bloom for longer than the Winter Aconite and is well-known as being a winter and spring survivor. I have personal records of the Woodland Snowdrop still being in bloom in early to mid April.

Its history links the flower to various places of monastic origin and it has a tendency to thrive on sites such as long since destroyed cottage ruins. There are many gardens in the United Kingdom where people can go to see vast carpets of these wondrous plants and they open up their grounds especially for this purpose.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

Hello 2012 and here comes the climate change indicators

The year 2012 is upon us and the UK’s climate is continuing with its bizarre approach. Today, the 3rd January has seen 54mph gusts at my sheltered location and winds in excess of 100mph in other parts. Christmas Day and New Years Eve and New Years Day all possessed temperatures 3 to 4c above normal.

So, what of this new era, how is nature coping with the upheaval?

One thing for sure, the phenological indicators are keeping me on my toes.

Firstly, Winter Aconite (illustrated below) has bloomed in my garden at its earliest date on record, the 27th December. The range, being represented by 12 personal records is from 27th December right through to 24th January. 

Reproduced from

 Winter Aconite –Eranthis hyemalis.

Known as choirboys in Suffolk and more commonly as wolfs bane, Winter Aconite is a member of the Buttercup family. It is a tough plant, being tolerant of frost, snow and ice. The harshest winters bring about the best show of this beautiful flower. It will bloom all the way into March in most years. Although a popular ornamental plant, it is known to be poisonous. Occasionally planted alongside Snowdrops and other early bloomers, they are a joy to behold on a crisp sunny winters day. I know of a wonderful display under a canopy of deciduous trees near Andover in Hampshire, England. I will be visiting there in a couple of week’s time to see how the Aconites are progressing.

More phenology will be forthcoming, people.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell