Plantwatch: Britain’s volunteer naturalists provide vital knowledge | Science

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Britain has a long tradition of volunteer naturalists dating back 250 years to the Rev Gilbert White in Selborne, Hampshire, best known for his classic book The Natural History of Selborne (1789).

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In recent times, Rosemary Parslow has detailed the plants of the Isles of Scilly, many found nowhere else in Britain thanks to the sub-tropical climate of the islands.

Rosemary first visited the islands in 1958, and now – aged 87 – she still monitors the islands’ heathlands and coasts.

One of her greatest discoveries was a small rare fern, the least adder’s-tongue fern (Ophioglossum lusitanicum), which only grows 0.8in (2cm) tall, found on a patch of heath on the small island of St Agnes and is unique to the UK.

In Ashtead, Surrey, Jean Combes recorded the dates each spring when her local trees first came into leaf. She began her records in 1947 and noted the leafing of oak, ash, lime and horse chestnut, which she did purely out of her love of nature.

Over the years her records have proved invaluable, showing the trees steadily leafing earlier because of the warming climate. Jean died in 2023 aged 96 but her work is carried on by other volunteers.



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Paul Simons www.theguardian.com

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