AbstractA project undertaken by the Somerset Rare Plants Group (SRPG) to record first flowering dates of wild flowers in Somerset during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21. Initially the project was envisaged mainly as a way of giving SRPG members and friends a much-needed distraction and focus during the early weeks of lockdown. From these modest beginnings it ended up running for a whole year, beginning with the first Lords-and-Ladies of 2020 and ending with the first Lords-and-Ladies of 2021. More than fifty people were involved, including several having to 'shield' through the first lockdown. Analysis of our observations confirmed what we suspected, that the spring of 2020 was indeed a truly extraordinary spring: first dates were, on average, c. 4 weeks earlier than those recorded by Somerset botanist Walter Watson almost a century ago, and c. 2 weeks earlier than those recorded in the Taunton area during the decade 2008-2017. Although ostensibly about first flowerings, the project included a lot of other natural history, while reflecting also on the various trials and tribulations that we (both as a group and as individuals) had to face as the year unfolded. As noted in the preface: "In 2020, the simple daily act of noticing which plants had just begun flowering was one of the things that helped us to navigate through the year. For our little group, the flowers were like stepping stones, way-markers, pin-pricks of light and colour in the darkness. With these first flowerings we made a daisy chain (of sorts) that kept us roped together during a difficult and deeply troubling time."
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