Rowan and elderberry also affected as dismal weather delays wild trees and shrubs' fruiting season
© Barry Lewis/Alamy
Another sign of impending food shortages
The devil is set to get into the blackberries later than ever before this century, according to early reports from the UK's annual survey of wild trees and shrubs' fruiting season.
The traditional phrase for the fruit over-ripening and losing its crisp taste is unlikely to be bandied around until mid or late August, if first reports from the mass exercise prove to be a consistent pattern.
Early indications from the army of amateur naturalists - or "citizen scientists" as they are now called by the project's organisers at the Woodland Trust - show a delay of eight days over all previous first sightings dating back to the year 2000. Similar setbacks, almost certainly due to the dismal weather since late March, are also affecting rowan and elderberry.
Contrasts with last year are particularly stark, with the country's first ripe blackberry recorded on 13 July compared to 4 June in 2011. The first sighting of a ripe rowan berry was on 1 July, compared with 1 June last year and of elderberry on 10 July 10 compared with 21 June.
The trust said that the Nature's Calendar exercise
indicates that "unseasonal weather in early summer" is the cause of the delay. Kate Lewthwaite, who is in charge of the survey, said: "The fact that first sightings of all of these species are late, or exceptionally late, implies that this is a real situation rather than anecdote. It does not just affect ramblers or jam makers. Our resident wildlife, especially fruit-eating birds and mammals, will be kept waiting for a first taste of their autumn feast.
"Once we get the average dates, which will be compiled from data recorded by ordinary people across the UK over the next few months, we will have a more robust picture of the effect this very unusual year has had on our flora and fauna. For this reason we are appealing to everyone to look out for these wild fruits and record the first ripe ones they see so we can continue to accurately monitor what is happening."
The signs of late fruiting tally with earlier Nature's Calendar findings on the flowering season of wild fruit plants this year. An exceptionally warm spring in 2011 led to early flowering times last year, heightening the contrast with this summer's averages.
These have seen cooler temperatures delay the average flowering date of rowan this year to 10 May - within a range from 18 April to 14 May over the last 12 years. Elder's average flowering date in 2012 was 22 May within a range of 8 to 29 May.
Nature's Calendar has 60,000 regular recorders on its register and also keeps findings - mostly by amateur enthusiasts - dating back to the 17th century.