Plants in the UK flower a month earlier under recent warming.
Global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate, but environmental responses are often difficult to recognize and quantify. Long-term observations of plant phenology, the annually recurring sequence of plant developmental stages, can provide sensitive measures of climate change and important information for ecosystem services. Here, we present 419 354 recordings of the first flowering date from 406 plant species in the UK between 1753 and 2019 CE. Community-wide first flowering advanced by almost one month on average when comparing all observations before and after 1986 (p < 0.0001). The mean first flowering time is 6 days earlier in southern than northern sites, 5 days earlier under urban than rural settings, and 1 day earlier at lower than higher elevations. Compared to trees and shrubs, the largest lifeform-specific phenological shift of 32 days is found in herbs, which are generally characterized by fast turnover rates and potentially high levels of genetic adaptation. Correlated with January-April maximum temperatures at -0.81 from 1952-2019 (p < 0.0001), the observed trends (5.4 days per decade) and extremes (66 days between the earliest and latest annual mean) in the UK's first flowering dataset can affect the functioning and productivity of ecosystems and agriculture.