Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Collecting seed for the Millenium Seedbank

Geranium dissectum Cut-leaved Crane's-bill
Image courtesy of J. Crellin
Kevin Walker, BSBI Head of Science, has been working closely with Kew and other organisations on a 3-year seed-collecting project for the Millenium Seedbank.

You can read more about the Millenium Seedbank here and Kevin's pdf is here - it tells you which species he is looking for and how you can get involved. 

Some of the species are rare but there are also some very common plants in there which many of us are likely to see while out and about, such as Wild Garlic, Hairy Bittercress and Cut-leaved Crane's-bill. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

When Yellow Leaves...

I've been asked by Sophie, gallery assistant at Mascalls Gallery in Kent, to pass on these details about an art exhibition which she thinks may be of interest to botanists. It opens in September with a short programme of associated outreach events, including a botanical illustration workshop, a talk by a dendrologist and a guided walk around Bedgebury National Pinetum.

"The haunting new works of celebrated British artist Julian Perry are brought to Paddock Wood following the artist’s appearance at the 2015 Venice Biennale.
When Yellow Leaves
Julian Perry: Oak Tree (detail)
Image courtesy of Mascalls Gallery
Mascalls Gallery, Paddock Wood
19 September – 12 December 2015

Julian Perry (b. 1960) has established a reputation for complex, finely crafted works which respond to the changing British landscape.

Perry’s new body of work focuses on the crisis currently facing British trees. A ‘perfect storm’ of various pathogens and changing weather patterns threatens Britain’s woodland, and has the potential to alter our landscape as dramatically as the arrival of Dutch Elm disease in the 1960s. The works represent the continuation of Perry’s remarkable research and body of work undertaken during his 30 years as an artist.

Perry’s work is seductive in its drama, detail and skilled manipulation of paint. The works nostalgically echo the Ladybird book illustrations of the 1960s with their sense of affectionate illustration.

However these apparently benign paintings leave the viewer wondering about the greater environmental implications of this disease and decay in our landscape. Perry’s attempt to make ‘attractive’ paintings of an arboreal crisis took inspiration from Henry Tonks’ beautiful, but horrific, watercolour studies of soldiers disfigured during the First World War.

Julian Perry: Chestnut Blight II
Image courtesy of Mascalls Gallery
Perry’s work is steeped in the British landscape tradition, and his affinity to British landscape has led him to be featured in BBC documentaries on the legacy of both John Constable and Paul Nash. Perry’s work reflects his deep fascination and concern for contemporary environmental issues. His painting ‘Shed 54 and Rhubarb’ 2007 (Museum of London Collection) shows a doomed allotment shed on the site of London 2012 Olympics, yet is painted with a fidelity reminiscent of a Rogier van de Leyden altarpiece.

The appeal of ‘When Yellow Leaves’ reaches beyond the conventional gallery audience to attract visitors interested in conservation, botany, ecology and the politics of land use.

Julian Perry lives and works in East London and East Anglia. He has participated in exhibitions both in the UK and internationally, receiving several major awards including from Arts Council England and the British Council. Perry’s works are held in many collections, public and private.

Curator of Mascalls Gallery, Rebecca Hone, says “it is a great pleasure to bring these works to Mascalls Gallery. I am sure that our visitors will appreciate Perry’s skilled use of oils as well as the commentary on our changing landscape which underlies these beautifully rendered images.”

The exhibition continues until Saturday 12 December 2015.

Saturday 17 October 2015 from 4pm
Artist Julian Perry will be discussing his skills and techniques in manipulating oil paint within the context of his concern for the British tree crisis.
Tickets £7 (£5 concessions)

Wednesday 21 October 2015 10am – 5pm
A visit to Bedgebury National Pinetum with a talk by dendrologist, Dan Luscombe, followed by a guided walk around the Pinetum.
Tickets £20 (minibus provided)

Wednesday 4 November 2015 12 – 4pm
Learn the basics of botanical drawing with Pearl Bostock, who is the Chairman of the Florilegium Society at Bedgebury National Pinetum.
Tickets £24 (materials inc)

For images and further information please contact Mascalls Gallery curator Rebecca Hone on hone@mascallsgallery.org or 01892 839029

Mascalls Gallery, Maidstone Road, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6LT
Free admission. Open: Tue – Thur 10 – 5, Fri – Sat 11 – 4,
Closed: Sun – Mon

Tel: 01892 839039     Email: info@mascallsgallery.org   Web: www.mascallsgallery.org
Twitter: @MascallsGallery

Since opening in 2006, Mascalls Gallery has presented an annual programme of major exhibitions featuring a wide range of art and design. 

Previous exhibitions include Roland Collins: Found Landscapes; Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings, a Mascalls Gallery touring exhibition with The Hepworth, Wakefield and Pallant House, Chichester; and Cedric Morris & Christopher Wood: A Forgotten Friendship with Norwich Castle Museum and Falmouth Art Gallery.

Situated on Mascalls School site in Paddock Wood, exhibitions are open to all and admission is free".

Friday, 3 July 2015

Botanical snippets for July.

Bird's-nest orchid.
Image: M. Cruise
1. A great new resource for botanists, this pdf which aims to list all the electronic and print resources available to help people with plant ID, including many free resources. It's from FSC's Tomorrow's Biodiversity website. There's some great stuff on the website, it's well worth a look.

2. Lots of interesting plant sightings on BSBI members' blogs - such as sightings of 2 Cyperus spp. on the Gower, Filago vulgaris in Sheffield city, this white Kidney Vetch on Banstead Downs and Bird's-nest orchid refound in Wexford.

3. A happy story - "Herbarium workshops with nursing homes and Alzheimer's charities" in Kendal next year. Not a happy story - this account in Nature tells how American herbaria are feeling the pinch. 

4. Nice note about publication of the Hybrid Flora on the Biological Records Centre website here. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

New publication will help British and Irish botanists to record wildflowers.

Possible hybrid between Heath
Spotted-orchid & Northern Marsh-orchid.
Courtesy of J. Crellin
BSBI is delighted to announce the publication of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles by Clive Stace, Chris Preston & David Pearman.

As Professor Richard Abbott says in his Foreword “This remarkable book will be an essential reference for all British and Irish botanists who have an interest in hybrids. … No other book of its kind exists for other parts of the world and consequently this book will surely set the standard for future hybrid floras”.

Plant hybrids are numerous and constitute an important feature of our vegetation. Some are already well-known, such as the hybrid bluebells now frequent throughout much of Britain, but fewer people are aware that many of our oak trees and wild orchids are hybrids, or that some of our Japanese Knotweed - which causes landowners such nightmares - is actually a hybrid between Japanese and Giant Knotweeds.  
Hybrid between English & Sessile oaks?
Courtesy of J. Crellin
Chris Preston says “New hybrids between native and garden plants are arising all the time” but all too often hybrids have been neglected by botanists as they are considered difficult and time-consuming. The Hybrid Flora of the British Isles will be of huge value to BSBI botanists who record the distribution of plants growing in the wild across Britain and Ireland and share this information on interactive maps and in atlases. 

The data collected by BSBI members, once validated, feed into one of the largest biological databases in the world, used by policy-makers, conservationists and academia.

With this new reference work, hybrids can be identified more accurately, recorded more confidently and validated more easily, increasing the flow of reliable records to the BSBI database and deepening our knowledge and understanding of which plants grow where across Britain and Ireland.

Hybrid larch
Courtesy of J. Crellin
The Hybrid Flora of the British Isles will be used by botanists seeking to identify hybrids in the field, by evolutionary biologists investigating the significance of plant hybridisation or its contribution to the spread of introduced plants, by conservation biologists seeking to protect our biodiversity and by all those teaching about these topics. 

It both summarises existing knowledge and highlights some significant gaps in that knowledge which need to be filled by future research.

Hybrid between Wood Avens & Water Avens
Courtesy of J. Crellin

Stace, Preston and Pearman offer detailed accounts of 909 hybrids reliably recorded in the wild in these islands: some are hybrids between native species, which have spread beyond the areas where their parents coexist, but there are also many hybrids which have escaped from gardens to become established in the wild. 

Hybridisation between species is particularly significant as it represents a major evolutionary pathway in flowering plants; frequently it alters the characteristics of both native and alien taxa and it generates new species.

BSBI data on distribution of hybrids growing in the wild provide a valuable resource for researchers, making the British and Irish hybrid flora one of the most closely studied in the world and offering the eminent authors of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles an ideal opportunity to look in depth at the occurrence of hybrids in wild vegetation.

Clive Stace in the Herbarium, Univ. Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
Clive Stace is Emeritus Professor of Plant Taxonomy at the University of Leicester and the author of the New Flora of the British Isles, now in its third edition and widely acknowledged as the most authoritative work of its kind, designed to enable botanists to identify any plant found in the wild in Britain or Ireland.

Co-authors Dr Chris Preston and David Pearman are also co-authors (with Dr Trevor Dines) of the New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora, 2002, which aimed to map all the plants growing in the wild in Britain and Ireland. Both Clive and David have served a term as BSBI President, while Chris is a stalwart of BSBI Publications Committee and sits on the Editorial Board of New Journal of Botany

New Atlas authors reunited, Kew, 2014:
Pearman, Preston & Dines (r-l)
Image: L. Marsh
The accounts of 909 hybrids in the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles include notes on identification, habitats and distribution, chromosome number, information on fertility/sterility and capacity for vegetative reproduction. 

Completely novel maps, based on the plant records collected by BSBI members, illustrate where the commoner hybrids occur in relation to their parents. 

Summaries are given of any experimental and molecular studies and briefer notes are given on a further 156 hybrids, including some which are erroneously or doubtfully recorded and others which might potentially occur as escapes from cultivation. 

The Hybrid Flora of the British Isles is a BSBI publication and is now available from booksellers such as Summerfield Books and the NHBS

Monday, 29 June 2015

BSBI Summer Meeting: part four.

Mossy saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides
Image: O. Duffy
Irish botanist Oisin Duffy has posted two more excellent blogposts about the BSBI Summer Meeting.

His account of our visit to the Umbra is here and his account of our afternoon at Binevenagh, the final fieldtrip of the Summer Meeting, is here.

In his series of four blogposts, Oisin has captured in words and images the places we visited, some of the plants we saw and his personal experience of his first BSBI Annual Summer Meeting. Oisin and Mairead are very active biological recorders and you can see the high quality of Oisin's photographic work on his blog - click on his images to enlarge them.

Spring sandwort Minuartia verna
Image: M. Cruise
Horticulturist Marc Cruise also takes lots of great photographs of native and alien plants and until recently ran the popular Plant ID Quiz on Twitter. Many thanks to Marc for allowing me to share his images on this page of some of the plants we saw at Binevenagh.

Marc, Oisin and Mairead, along with young consultants like Sharon, Toby and Donncha, and recent graduates like James, all said how much they enjoyed the Summer Meeting and the chance to spend time in the field with experienced County Recorders like Dave Riley (Co. Londonderry), David McNeill (Antrim), Ian McNeill (Tyrone), Robert Northridge (Fermanagh) and of course John Faulkner (Armagh). 

The County Recorders were all so helpful and welcoming towards younger and/or less experienced botanists. Oisin told me that it was attending a BSBI workshop with Ralph Sheppard, County Recorder for West Donegal, last year that triggered a more serious interest in botany for him and Mairead.

Mossy campion Silene acaulis
Image: O. Duffy
The excellent Maria Long, BSBI's indefatigable Irish Officer, was working hard and buzzing with energy all weekend, and it was a huge pleasure to meet our Chair Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington, Emeritus Senior Lecturer in Botany at the University of Galway
Mountain avens Dryas octopetala
Image: O. Duffy

I had heard so much about Micheline: the glowing reports from her former students, her years of active support for nature conservation in Ireland and of course her inspirational interview with Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour

She didn't disappoint, proving as warm and friendly as she is knowledgeable, and a great communicator.    

As is Lynne Farrell, County Recorder for Mid-Ebudes, co-chair of BSBI Meetings & Communications Committee and an alumna of the University of Coleraine. 

We heard about Lynne's Wild Years at Coleraine in her very well-received after-dinner speech, which included the line "and so I had to climb in through my landlady's living-room window after midnight with my boyfriend's trousers in my hand..."  

All in all, a highly memorable Summer Meeting ;-) 

Conference: Cherishing Churchyards

Churchyard Meadow Saxifrage
Image: Dan Wrench
'Caring for God's Acre' has featured on these pages before. 

New Year Plant Hunter and prizewinner Tim Havenith chose greater support for this charity as one of his Botanical Wishes for 2015. 

'Caring for God's Acre' is a non-religious charity which supports the conservation of burial sites of all kinds. 

Their Manager Sue has been in touch to ask me to pass on details of a conference to be held in London on 16th of July.

Churchyard wildflowers
Image: courtesy of Caring for God's Acre

The conference is called 'Beauty in Tranquility: Cherishing Churchyards and Burial Grounds' and you can download the booking details here.

There are several talks and workshops in the programme which may be of interest to botanists.

The images on these pages show how churchyards and burial grounds can be managed for biodiversity.

You can find out more about 'Caring for God's Acre' by visiting their website here

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Hybrids Flora: last chance to buy at pre-publication discount price.

A quick reminder that you only have a few more days left if you want to save £19 on the price of the new Hybrid Flora of the British Isles by Stace, Preston & Pearman. From the 1st of July, you will have to pay £45 but until then, a copy can be yours for just £26

Whenever you order, you will also be asked to pay £7 p&p. The Hybrid Flora (as it will undoubtedly become known to its friends!) is a weighty tome in every respect, crammed with information as befits the authors who between them are also responsible for the New Flora of the British Isles and the New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora.

Here's a glimpse of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles: