A magnolia tree in full bloom was the very symbol of spring yesterday in Kensington, west London, as millions of Britons around the country enjoyed temperatures at least 8C warmer than normal for the time of year. Porthmadog in North Wales saw the warmest temperature, 21.7C, making it hotter than Madrid.
And yesterday's fine weather came on the eve of British Summer Time, with the clocks having gone forward an hour today.
The flowers of the magnolia tree have symbolised late spring's warmer weather for centuries. The tree is one of nature's survivors, coming from a group of plants that go back at least 100 million years – surviving the Ice Age and outlasting the dinosaurs. Magnolia flowers were around before bees existed, and evolved to encourage pollination by beetles.
The magnolia was discovered by the French botanist Charles Plumier in 1703, who named a flowering tree from Martinique after the French naturalist Pierre Magnol.
It is one of the world's most popular trees, a common sight in churchyards and parks, and found in gardens all over the world. But would-be gardeners thinking of planting one need to be patient – it can take up to 20 years to produce flowers.