Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Early Flowering Plants

Usually flowering in June, the mild weather has lead the Common Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, to flowering at the start of February
A recent comment on my "Guillemots and the Climate Change Mistake" post by Tony Powell led me to his wonderful naturestimeline blog. It is concerned with documenting phenological (the timing of life-history) events in the UK among other things, and inspired me to examine any such events happening in Cork, Ireland.

Meadow Buttercup, Rannunculus acris
Due to the mildness of the winter, I examined a public walkway along the estuary of the river Lee for signs plants in flower. It revealed eight plants in flower on this, the first of February (listed below).

Plant Name Common Name Flowering Date
2012 Average*
Anthriscus sylvestris Cow Parsley 1st Feb April
Centaurea nigra Common Knapweed 1st Feb June
Medicago lupulina Black Medick 1st Feb April
Rannunculus acris Meadow Buttercup 1st Feb April
Senecio jacobaea Ragwort 1st Feb June
Trifolium pratense Red Clover 1st Feb May
Ulex europaeus Common Gorse 1st Feb February
Vicia sepium Bush Vetch 1st Feb April

Of these, only Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) has an average flowering date usually near this time. The expected flowering dates for the others ranges from April to June. In addition, four more plants were seen to be in bud and on the verge of flowering: Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Common St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Cowslip (Primula veris) and Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare).

Bush Vetch, Vicia sepium

*Average flowering dates from Sterry, 2004, Collins Complete Guide to Irish Wildlife


  1. Thanks for the relink. I feel like a modern day Gilbert White but I must admit anyone can do what I do. If many more folk were to take up phenological research, just imagine how much more we would all learn. I will just add but not to dampen your fire, the dates you mention above seem ok overall, however I do know Gorse flowers virtually all year round. Nevertheless, the sightings that you have witnessed do show how each year can be vastly different from another. A lot of the above will have been in flower throughout the winter, which is remarkable but also rather worrying for their circadian rhythms.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell

  2. This year here in Brazil i'm also noticing something similar. The silk floss trees (Ceiba speciosa) are flowering about two months earlier than usual.

    Piter K. Boll