Wednesday, 22 April 2015

New Journal of Botany: April issue gone to press

The April issue of New Journal of Botany has gone to press and should be available on-line and posted to members before the end of the month, but I thought you might like a sneak preview. You may want to set aside a few hours to read this new issue, because it features seven papers as well as four Book Reviews and eight pages of Plant Records

Fruits of two Geum parents and a hybrid
Image: M. Wilcox
There is also a brand new cover for 2015, curated by Claudia Ferguson-Smyth, whose own wild flower images have graced previous NJB covers. This time round, Claudia has chosen prize-winning images from a selection submitted to the recent BSBI photographic competition

It's so tempting to "leak" one of the images here - three of them are very vibrant, a departure from the cool colours Claudia used on 2014's cover - but I think that would spoil the surprise. So you'll just have to wait a few more days!

SEMs of a familiar Carex sp. Read NJB 5.1 to find out which
Image: Proctor & Bradshaw
As for contents, we have a paper by Keith Kirby, who was a co-author (with Rob Marrs et al.) on one of the most frequently downloaded NJB papers 'Native dominants in British woodland'. Keith's new paper is about vegetation changes in clear fells and closed-canopy stands in an English woodland over a 30 year period. There is also a paper by Mike Wilcox describing a new Geum hybrid from England, and the fourth in our series of scanning electron micrographs of leaves of British Carex species. 

I could go on, but I think you'd rather have some nice surprises to look forward to when you open your copy of NJB 5.1. Not too much longer to wait!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Bookings now open for BSBI Annual Summer Meeting 2015!

Giant's Causeway, one of the fieldtrip locations
Image: J. Faulkner
If you've never been to one of BSBI's Annual Summer Meetings, maybe this is the year to give it a go? And if you have, you're probably already itching to find out more about this year's event and how you can book for it.

The Annual Summer Meeting (ASM) moves around the country, so last year's event was held in Scotland and if you click here, you can read the ninth in a series of blogposts about the fieldtrips, the talks and the plants. 

Honckenya peploides at the Giant's Causeway on shingle
which is a mixture of dark basalt and pale limestone.
Image: J. Faulkner
In 2013, the ASM was held in Beaumaris in North Wales and although the News & Views blog was only a few months old at that point, I did post here, here and here about the people who attended and some of the plants that we saw. In those days, it was called the AGM because we had to miss out on a bit of field time to sit indoors and vote on things like who gets to sit on Council, but nowadays we save those delights for the AEM in November ;-)

Apologies that there are no posts about the 2012 ASM. It was an excellent 2-day event, held at the University of Reading, but this was a few days before I became BSBI's Publicity & Outreach Officer, so you'll just have to use your imagination about what went on! There are no photographs available and I couldn't possibly comment on any of the unsubstantiated rumours...

A Fragrant Orchid, subspecies uncertain.
Image: J. Faulkner
This year, the ASM will be held in Northern Ireland from 12th-16th June and you can see the flyer for the event on this shiny new webpage. We hope that we've made it easier than ever to book and there is also a new Gmail account so you can just send us an email if you have any questions. 

Maybe you'd like to find out a bit more about the accommodation that we are offering at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, where the event is based? Or you want to know which of the puddings offered at the Conference Dinner is gluten-free? Or maybe you just can't decide which excursion group you'd rather book for? 

Both Binevenagh and Umbra sound amazing, and I'm finding it really hard to chose between White Park Bay with its 9 species of orchids and Ness & Ervey Woods, where I hear the trees are dripping with interesting mosses and rich with unusual lichens, and there is some fascinating history attached to the site. 

White Park Bay, another fieldtrip location.
Image: J. Faulkner
Ian Denholm, BSBI President and Orchid Referee, will be at the ASM and will be on hand to help us with identifying some of the trickier orchids, like the Fragrant Orchid (above right), which may be ssp. borealis. Or maybe not. Even Clive Stace says "distribution very uncertain". If you want to know for sure, why not get your diary out, head over to the ASM page here and see if you can join us in June for what promises to be the botanical highlight of the year? 

There is one exception though - one name that we really don't want to see on the booking list. Find out whose that name is by clicking here.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

News from Stoke Museum

One of the nice things about attending a BSBI workshop is the chance to catch up with fellow botanists from other parts of the country and find out what they have been up to in their local patch. 

It was great to see Martin Godfrey at the Euphrasia workshop in Leicester a few months ago - he shares my passion (and yours, I hope!) for herbaria, and volunteers regularly in his local herbarium at Stoke Museum. So I'm delighted that Martin has sent us an update on his work on brambles, and some images. 

Here's what Martin has been up to:   

"Having completed the catalogue of Eric Edees' Rubus material, I thought I would get away from the actual plant specimens for a bit and take a look at some neglected material in the form of Edees papers left to the museum on his death.  

"As a county recorder and national referee for Rubus his correspondence was very wide, taking in many of the major botanists of the previous generation - including Peter Sell on both Hieraceum and what was to become Sell and Murrell’s “Flora of Great Britain and Ireland” and Pugsley on Euphrasia [see image on left].  

"Probably the strength of these papers to current botanists will be his extensive taxonomic notes, drawings and often very outspoken correspondence with Francis Rilstone on Rubus taxonomy [see image on right] – this was clearly something of an emotive topic in the world of the Batologists of the 1950s and 1960s. 

"The notes, letters and drawings are very detailed and give considerable insight into the species concepts of the period and the differences between UK and Continental botanists.  On a lighter note, there are letters between Edees and H E Weber in Germany about the possibility of a European Batological Exchange Club and, for the biological recording buffs, some discussion on how to label tetrads in the pre-DINTY days. 

"It is a great pity that this kind of museum resource is so very rarely used and even the specimens themselves are infrequently consulted; the last time that a lot went out was for the recent County Flora and for the Hieraceum section of Peter Sell’s magnum opus. 

"In a county museum like this we don’t just have an herbarium so I thought that I would highlight the people who share the lab with me and the, similarly neglected, collections they work on  – so here (on left) is a picture of archaeologist Laura working on bones from a cave in the Manifold Valley and (below) arachnologist Sarah-Jane working on our spider collection".

Thanks for this, Martin. Interesting to have a glimpse into what goes on at Stoke Museum.

To see the images at a larger size - and to read the letter more easily - just click on the images.

If you also work on a botanical collection, whether paid or unpaid, in a museum or a university herbarium, why not send us a few words and an image or two? And do check out the NatSCA blog. We herbarium people should stick together - if we don't blow our own trumpets, I doubt if anybody else will!   

Monday, 13 April 2015

Three cheers for BSBI's Scottish volunteers

VC Recorders at the 2015 Scottish Recorders' Conference
Image: J. McIntosh
Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh has been in touch to tell us about the recent Scottish Recorders' Conference. But don't worry if you weren't able to attend - Jim has uploaded 16 presentations to this webpage, so you haven't missed out altogether! Many of the subjects covered apply to recording across Britain and Ireland, so do check out presentations on Atlas 2020, MapMate, the BSBI database and Memory Map. And you don't need to be an expert to benefit from the info on offer - some presentations are aimed at beginners.

There are also some amazing images to enjoy - just take a look at Andy Amphlett's Powerpoint about recording in the Cairngorms National Park, which was also covered here in News & Views last February. But Andy was obviously saving his very best plant pix for his presentation!

Chris Metherell was also at the Scottish recorders' Conference, talking about Rare Plant Registers and Atlas 2020 - his Powerpoint is here - and he tweeted this photograph live from the event and captioned:
Embedded image permalink

Jim (in blue checked shirt) represented Scotland at
 'Pearman Day' at Kew, Sept 2014
Image: L. Marsh
You can also read Jim's annual report on the BSBI Scotland page and marvel at all he has managed to achieve in the past year, and check out the summary of annual reports from VC Recorders in Scotland (including Michael BraithwaiteDavid WelchPaul Smith and Lynne Farrell). Jim describes this summary as "a fascinating account of botanical endeavour by BSBI Recorders and members across Scotland, which leaves me feeling truly humbled". His report tells us that, as part of BSBI's funding application to Scottish Natural Heritage for Jim's post supporting VC Recorders, he was asked to provide a "notional value of the work undertaken annually by BSBI volunteers in Scotland". This work was valued at £230,000, so if you are one of our amazing volunteers, please set your customary modesty aside for a moment and give yourself an enormous pat on the back! And if you are a BSBI volunteer from England, Ireland or Wales, why not share what you have been up to - or your plans for 2015 - on these pages? Don't think of it as showing off, rather as encouraging your fellow botanists and letting everyone know what can be achieved by getting out in the field with a handlens, an ID key and an enthusiasm for recording our wonderful wildflowers!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Rose E Collom: a Botanist of the Arizona Wilderness

This guest blogpost is rather a departure from News & Views' usual style: it features an American, rather than British or Irish, botanist and has some serious footnotes. But after I noticed Siobhan Leachman enthusing on Twitter about a female botanist I had never heard of, I simply had to ask her to tell us more. Siobhan very kindly agreed and the result is presented here.

Dudleya collomiae
Image: Mr Alan English CPA
Reproduced by kind permission of Mr English
"I first discovered Rose E Collom while transcribing field books at the Smithsonian Transcription Centre.1 I was transcribing two books written about 100 years ago by Joseph Nelson Rose, a botanist and curator at the Smithsonian. In these books he documented the identification of specimens, specimen sheets, plants, cuttings and seeds of cacti sent either to himself or the United States National Herbarium by collectors around the world. 

I was surprised at the number of women botanists and plant collectors mentioned by him given he was writing in the early 1900’s. One of the women frequently noted was Rose E. Collom.

Rose Collom nee Wilson was born in Georgia and had trained as a teacher2, attending Lindenwood College in 1886-87 and 1888-893. She became interested in Arizona flora when she moved to the State with her husband W. B. Collom in 1914. They lived in an isolated area in Gila County in the foothills of the Mazatzal Mountains where her husband worked a mine on the Collom property.

Plant Collecting

An article in the Arizona Producer quotes her as stating “I thought I would go crazy at first. My husband spent his days working the mine; beyond cooking his meals and mending his clothes there was nothing for me to do except sit … and gaze out over these hills”. Collom was unintimidated by the “coyotes yelping on the ridges or a mountain lion screaming up the canyon”. She began to take long walks and study the unique plants from the area.4

Mazatzal Mountains
Image: Mr Alan English CPA
Reproduced by kind permission of Mr English
She collected seeds, cuttings and specimens. She educated herself on Arizona plants by reading botany books and corresponding with botanists such as Joseph Rose, Thomas Henry Kearney & Robert Hibbs Peebles. In doing so she became an acknowledged expert on the plants of Arizona.5

Her plant collecting led her to discover several plants previously unknown to science that would eventually to be named after her. Among these are Dudleya collomiae6 (Gila County liveforever), Ranunculus collomiae and Galium collomiae.  Dr. John Thomas Howell of the California Academy of Sciences, when naming Galium collomiae wrote, “It is a pleasure and honor to name this distinctive addition to the Arizona flora in honor of Mrs. Rose Collom who has done so much critical field work in that state”.7

Her collected specimens are held in numerous Herbarium including the U.S. National Herbarium, the Lois Porter Earle Herbarium at the Desert Botanical Garden and the Arizona State University Herbarium.8 Other institutions that hold her specimens include the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Lindenwood University Herbarium and the Grand Canyon Museum Herbarium which holds the Rose Collom Collection.9

Collaboration with other notable Botanists

Rose Collom, botanist
Image: Grand Canyon National Park
Museum Collection #5284
Reproduced by kind permission of the Museum
As well as collecting specimens, Collom made careful observations and detailed descriptions of the habitats, bloom times, growing conditions and the uses of native plants.  She was one of the acknowledged collaborators with noted botanists Kearney & Peebles when they wrote the book “Flowering Plants and Ferns of Arizona”.  In the “Collaborators” section Kearney & Peebles wrote of Collom that “the writers are indebted for the privilege of using her manuscript notes on the habitat, time of flowering & economic use of Arizona plants”.10

“Flowering Plants and Ferns of Arizona” became the foundation upon which Kearney & Peebles based their later book “Arizona Flora”. Collom also contributed to “Arizona Flora” and its subsequent amendment. Arizona Flora remained the best and most comprehensive reference guide to Arizona plants for over 30 years.11

First Paid Botanist of the Grand Canyon National Park

Rose E Collom also became the Grand Canyon National Park’s first paid botanist from 1939 until 1954.12 In June of 1938 Collom collected in the Grand Canyon and in October exchanged letters with Mr E. McKee, the cofounder of the Grand Canyon Natural History Association (the forerunner to the Grand Canyon Association). He offered her a grant to enable her to collect specimens in the Grand Canyon area. In accepting this grant she became the first paid botanist of the Grand Canyon National Park.13

She conducted her botanical work at the Park, visiting to collect specimens or work in the herbarium, every year except 1948. The herbarium at the Grand Canyon National Park has 826 of her specimens.14

Garden Clubs and Botanical Societies

Mrs Collom was also active with the Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs. She was the Horticultural Chairman of the Federation of Garden Clubs of Arizona15 and helped to encourage the use of native Arizona plants for landscaping in home gardens and highways.16

She believed that some plants from higher altitudes could adapt themselves to lower altitudes if they were planted and cared for at an intermediate level and had time to accommodate themselves to the changed conditions. She was encouraged in this theory of progressive adaptation by Dr J. J. Thornberry, a botanist at the University of Arizona and Dr F. J. Crider, Director of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. She put this theory into practice by collecting plants from higher altitude and then allowing them several seasons to adapt to intermediate conditions in her garden before replanting at a lower altitude.17

Mrs Collom was also a member of the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society, which in 1937, founded the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. She was a charter member of the Desert Botanical Garden18 and supplied numerous native Arizona plants to it.19  Her valuable personal herbarium collection along with her writings were donated to the Desert Botanical Garden in 1951.20


The influence of Rose Collom in the field of botany was posthumously recognised when she was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.21 Her collection work continues to assist scientists today as her specimens are studied and cited in academic journals".22 

Many thanks to Siobhan for this fascinating account and for the excellent list of references below, which are worthy of New Journal of Botany (I can give no higher praise!). 

1 Smithsonian Institute, Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Transcription Centre, available at: (accessed 20th January 2015)
2 Arizona Producer (1930), “Woman of the Wilderness”,  Arizona Producer, September 15, p. 4
3 Lindenwood College Bulletin, (1930), “Woman of the Wilderness”, Lindenwood College Bulletin, Vol. 104, No.6, p. 10
4 Arizona Producer (1930), “Woman of the Wilderness”,  Arizona Producer, September 15, p. 4
5 Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame (2013), Rose Collom (1870 – 1956) available at: (accessed 5th January 2015)
6 Gentry, Mary A. (1982), “Woman Botanists and Plant Collectors of Arizona”, Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society Newsletter, The Central Spine, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 2
7 Howell, J. T., (1949), “Three New Arizona Plants”, Leaflets of Western Botany, Vol. 5, No. 9, p. 151
8 Gentry, Mary A. (1982), “Woman Botanists and Plant Collectors of Arizona”, Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society Newsletter, The Central Spine, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 2
9 National Park Service, Grand Canyon Museum Collection, available at: (accessed 20th January 2015)
10 Kearney, T. H., Peebles, R. H. and Collaborators (1942), Flowering Plants and Ferns of Arizona, United States Department of Agriculture Misc. Publication No. 423, Washington DC. p. 3
11 University of Arizona Herbarium, Arizona Floras and Floristic Works, available at: (accessed 5th  January 2015)
12 Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame (2013), Rose Collom (1870 – 1956) available at : (accessed 5th January 2015)
13 Spendens, F. [pseudonym of Quartaroli, R. D.] (2013), “Grand Canyon’s Other Rose and First Botanist” Grand Canyon River Runner, Spring, No. 15, p. 12 -13
14 Spendens, F. [pseudonym of Quartaroli, R. D.] (2013), “Grand Canyon’s Other Rose and First Botanist” Grand Canyon River Runner, Spring, No. 15, p. 12 -13
15 Tucson Daily Citizen, March 16th 1944, p. 8
16 Gentry, Mary A. (1982), “Woman Botanists and Plant Collectors of Arizona”, Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society Newsletter, The Central Spine, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 2
17 Arizona Producer (1930), “Woman of the Wilderness”, Arizona Producer, September 15, p. 4
18 Hodgson W. and Salywon, A., (2014) “Desert Botanical Garden Herbarium (DES) Phoenix”, The Plant Press, Arizona Native Plant Society, Vol. 37, No. 1, p. 8.
19 Arizona Independent Republic, February 20th 1940, p. 6
20 Gentry, Mary A. (1982), “Woman Botanists and Plant Collectors of Arizona”, Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society Newsletter, The Central Spine, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 2
21 Spendens, F. [pseudonym of Quartaroli, R. D.] (2013), “Grand Canyon’s Other Rose and First Botanist” Grand Canyon River Runner, No. 15, p. 13
22 Ickert Bond, S. M., and D. J. Pinkava. "Vascular plant types in the Arizona State University Herbarium." Sida, Contrib. Bot 19.4 (2001): 1039-1059.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Robert Pocock Herbarium: Part Two

Last March, I told you about a fascinating project happening in Kent - the Robert Pocock Herbarium Project - and I bet lots of you have been following their progress since then via the link on the right, under Blogs by BSBI members. This weekend's post retraces a walk that Pocock took around 200 years ago, compares what is in flower now with the plants that Pocock saw and introduces us to the buffoon at Chalk Church!

Epilobium tetragonum collected by Pocock
Malcolm Jennings (mentioned in last March's post) has also been in touch to offer an update on the project. Malcolm says "The Heritage Lottery Funded 'Robert Pocock Herbarium Project' officially ended in February 2015. But there is still much to do! We found about 220 plant specimens collected by Robert Pocock between 1800 and 1830. The specimens are in good condition and have now been databased by the Natural History Museum. G. M. Arnold gave the Pocock herbarium to the NHM in 1884 and he wrote at the time that the herbarium must have contained several thousand specimens before the ravages of time. So perhaps 90% of the specimens were lost to decay before getting to the museum. Most of the specimens that survived are local to Gravesend and Kent. It is likely that this was true of the original collection – what a sad loss of biodiversity information. All of the specimens and label data can be viewed here:

"The provenance of some of the plants is questionable – several appear to have been collected by him after his death in 1830! Most of these “anomalies” can be explained by curator error when they were received at the NHM in 1884. More on this at

"We are now busy compiling all of the data from the collection labels, identifying his favourite collecting sites and his periods of botanical activity. Since we have parts of his journal for the same period we are also linking his specimen collecting to his daily life. We know, for example, that on 14th July 1823 he walked to Southfleet for “tea” with the Rev. Rashleigh and his two daughters. He tell us that Julia, the youngest daughter, is a good botanist. In our search of the herbarium we found this specimen of Epilobium tetragonum (see image above right), collected about ½ mile from the rectory so it is nice to think that perhaps after tea they all went botanising together – perhaps Julia picked the plant and gave it to Pocock for his collection."

Cover of the DVD.
Malcolm says "We have created a project DVD that contains all of the scanned images of the specimens found, biographical details of Robert Pocock, images of the collecting sites (contemporary and recent), photographs of the project and much more. Much of this is on the website – more to follow soon. The DVD is going to local libraries and schools" Malcolm has also very kindly sent me a copy, so you can expect another post about Pocock once I've watched it! And a quick check in my copy of Kent & Allen's British & Irish Herbaria shows that 240 sheets went to the BM so there are still 20 sheets unaccounted for. Must ask Malcolm about this...

Malcolm concludes: "Parts of Pocock’s journal and short biographical notes were published in 1883 - G. M. Arnold “Robert Pocock, The Gravesend Historian, Naturalist, Antiquarian, Botanist and Printer”(see image on previous post). This is the only edition and it is rarely available for purchase and held by very few libraries.  Brilliant news that the book is now being reprinted by Cambridge University Press. Coincidence?
Don't forget that you can follow the story on Facebook here:
as well as on this blog:  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Return of the Powdery Mildew Survey.

Last year, Waheed Arshad and Oli Ellingham from the University of Reading asked us to help them with their research on Powdery Mildews, and many of you rose to the challenge and sent your specimens to them for analysis. Waheed has now moved on to pastures new (York, where he's looking at Arabidopsis this year), but Oli is looking at Powdery Mildews again this season and hopes that we can help him again. I asked him to remind us what he will be doing and how we can make a contribution. 

Oli said "The 2014 Powdery Mildew Survey produced a total of 51 of the UK's 144 different powdery mildew species. The turn of spring 2015 will see the launch of the 2015 Powdery Mildew Survey

"As part of my research as a University of Reading PhD student, I aim to develop a quick and efficient framework for identification of powdery mildew species. This could also be applied to other troublesome pathogens. I am therefore asking YOU to send in your powdery mildews for identification. Starting with identification of host plant, analysis of the powdery mildews appearance, and DNA sequencing, the project aims to ascertain the identity of powdery mildew species; a practice challenging even for the experts. With approximately 800 different powdery mildew species found worldwide, the possibility of invasive species entering the UK is very real.

"Samples will add to a database of the UK species, offering material on which to test new and established identification methods.

"Will yours be one of the 144 species previously recorded within the UK, or one of thousands of host plants previously recorded? Will it be one to have recently expanded its host range? A new species to the UK? Or a previously unrecorded species?!"

Oli tells me that News & Views readers really rose to the challenge last year, sending their material to him, so let's hope that we can be equally helpful this year. If you have mildewed leaves, or you would like to know more about the project, please contact Oli at this address: As these images from Oli show, no leaf is too scuzzy to send - in fact, the scuzzier the better ;-)