Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Latest issue of BSBI News now out.

A tricky Whitebeam: Sorbus greenii
Image: D. Green. 
The latest issue of BSBI News has now been published and is winging its way towards BSBI members as we speak. 

It was delayed slightly so that we could include a print copy of the latest BSBI Annual Review - hot off the press and soon to appear on the BSBI website. 

You will also find a flyer, with booking form and programme, inviting you to this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting. For non-members (who are also welcome at the AEM), we'll be posting the flyer later this week on this page

But here's a sneak preview of what you can expect when you open your copy of BSBI News:

A note about Sorbus greenii which also features on the front cover of this issue of BSBI News.

Mibora minima with 5p piece for scale
Image: S. Bungard/P. Smith
A paper on the botanical interest of Runnymede in this year of the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.

Two responses to the recent paper published in the last issue of BSBI News and in Times Higher Education, bemoaning the current paucity of field biology courses in our universities. 

A new record for Scotland - the tiny Mibora minima on North Uist, spotted by sharp-eyed Oli Pescott, photographed by Stephen Bungard and reported here. It is known from East Lothian as a presumed introduction from 1851, but this is the first record of it growing in the wild in Scotland.

Harebells in the Burren Botany Bubble
Image courtesy of M. Bermingham
An article about the Burren Botany Bubble, featured on these pages a few months ago.

Plans for New Journal of Botany, which is available on-line here. Members can click through to papers by using their password (email Alex if you've forgotten it) and non-members can read the abstracts and see what they're missing!  

A report from Scotland on successful training workshops for beginners; and notes from BSBI members and country officers on interesting species recorded this summer across Britain and Ireland.

A note from Mel Linney about orchid finds in South Yorks., which includes the image below!

Spotted on a S. Yorks road verge
Image courtesy of M. Linney
Foraging has enjoyed a revival in interest in recent years. Some BSBI members are, or have been in the past, active foragers and consider it an excellent way to get people involved in the natural world. Other members worry about the impact on plant populations. 

BSBI News offers two papers presenting both sides of the argument, in the hope that members will join in the debate. Leave a comment below if you have strong feelings either way but are not yet a BSBI member. And remember - if you join BSBI, you will receive three print copies of BSBI News each year. If you join today, your one-year subscription runs right through to 31 December 2016!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

BSBI's ongoing support for the next generation of naturalists.

Young Darwin Scholars with tutor
Image courtesy of
Field Studies Council
BSBI has always been keen to invest in the future by supporting our next generation of naturalists. One of the ways that we have been doing this in recent years is by supporting the Young Darwin Scholarship (YDS). 

This initiative was set up by the Field Studies Council to "encourage and support young people who have a real interest in the natural world - to develop the next generation of 'Darwins'." 

BSBI has been proud to support YDS ever since it was launched and you can read more about the scholars we helped in 2012 by clicking here and here is a report on YDS in 2014.

Ammaarah examining a plant.
Image courtesy of
Field Studies Council
So it was great to hear last week from Cathy Preston at the Field Studies Council about this year's crop of Young Darwins. BSBI President Ian Denholm was delighted to read Cathy's report and you can see his response below, but first, here's what Cathy told us: 

"Once again this year FSC has have been privileged to be able to award Young Darwin Scholarships and work with 15 enthusiastic and passionate young people as well as continue to support the previous three cohorts of scholars. 

"We are very grateful to BSBI for its continued commitment and support for the initiative and I am also very grateful for the involvement and time contributed by key members of BSBI's Training & Education Committee, such as Sarah Whild, Mark Duffell and of course Sue Townsend.

BSBI Referee Fred Rumsey introduces 
Young Darwin Scholars to herbarium sheets
Image courtesy of Field Studies Council
"The 2015 Young Darwin Scholars (YDS) were a warm and friendly group of young people who were enthusiastic and engaged with all elements of the programme. As in previous years we had a mix of young people with general interest and some who had a very specific interest. 

"Throughout the programme the young people were identifying and recording flora and fauna and considering conservation issues such as the effect of different land management practices. 

Young Darwin Scholars in the field
Image courtesy of
Field Studies Council
"During their canoe journey down the River Severn each canoe ‘team’ devised a citizen science project to estimate the Himalayan Balsam population on the river bank.

"On the final full day of the programme the YDS benefited from Sarah’s presentation on biological recording and then during the Bioblitz session Mark was able to work with small groups and has inspired several of the YDS to follow up their interest in botany – something which I shall support and encourage. 

On that day the YDS submitted over 120 records using iRecord.

"In addition to this year’s cohort of YDS, the majority of the previous years’ cohort are still in touch and many are taking up further opportunities with us. 

Young Darwin Scholars examine their specimens
Image courtesy of Field Studies Council
"It is wonderful to have 60 YDS and it is thanks to the support of BSBI and other kind funders that FSC is able to continue this work. I am quite convinced that out of the 60 we shall have some future ‘stars’ of the environmental world. Many thanks!"

Inspirational stuff! 

Thanks to Cathy for sharing this and to BSBI President Ian Denholm, who responded by inviting the Young Darwins to join us at this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting in London on 28th November, saying:    

"I’m delighted that BSBI was, once again, able to support the Young Darwin Scholarships and thereby contribute to enthusing and training a new generation of naturalists and conservationists. I wish our Scholars every success with developing their careers and look forward to hearing reports of their progress".

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A hidden gem in South London

The Institute holds training sessions and workshops
Image courtesy of South London Botanical Institute
Have you ever visited the South London Botanical Institute

This "hidden little gem of Tulse Hill" houses a herbarium, a library and a small but exquisite botanic garden, but I wonder how many people know it's there or have any idea how or why - or by whom - it was founded.

That's all about to change - in tomorrow's episode of 'Natural History Heroes' on BBC Radio 4, we should all find out about the life of Allan Octavian Hume, botanist and ornithologist, who founded the South London Botanical Institute in 1910. 

The garden at SLBI
Image courtesy of
South London Botanical Institute
Roy Vickery was interviewed for the programme which goes out live at 1.45 tomorrow and should be available on iPlayer here soon after. Roy is a botanist at the Natural History Museum and, until recently, was BSBI Vice-President.

Roy told me "Although the programme will concentrate on Hume's ornithological activities in India, it will also include an interview with me about Hume's botanical collecting in the U.K. and his work as founder of the South London Botanical Institute. 

"I took the BBC interviewer around the Institute and told her how Hume set it up in 1910 because he thought it would be good for South London people to know more about plants; possibly this would discourage drunkenness. I showed her the herbarium, library and garden and talked about how Hume hoped this would achieve his goals". 
Getting creative in the library at Tulse Hill
Image courtesy of South London Botanical Institute

The herbarium, library and garden are still available today for the good people of South London and beyond to enjoy. 

Find out more here

If you are in the area, why not drop in and send us a report? 

Do remember to tell us whether or not your visit to the South London Botanical Institute discouraged you from drunkenness...

Monday, 28 September 2015

Sir Hans Sloane's herbarium on Radio 4

Are you listening to Dr Mark Spencer on BBC Radio 4's 'Natural History Heroes'? If you missed today's episode, you can catch it again here on iPlayer

Cabinets housing the Sloane volumes
Image courtesy of Natural History Museum
Mark talked about Sir Hans Sloane and his herbarium collection, which is housed at the Natural History Museum. Sir Hans' 265 volumes of pressed specimens are housed in a purpose-built special collections room, with each volume in its own temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet. How very grand!  

We are hoping that Mark will agree to lead one of his famous behind-the-scenes tours of the herbarium at this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting (AEM), which this year is taking place at the Natural History Museum on Saturday 28th November. These tours have proved incredibly successful in previous years but Mark is incredibly busy this year with Orchid Observers and all his media appearances. Fingers crossed that he can fit us in! 

BSBI members should keep an eye out this week for the postie, who will be bringing you more info about the AEM and how you can book. 

If you are not yet a BSBI member, the AEM is one of the best ways to find out more about the society (and it's a great botanical day out and you get first dibs on next year's Field Meetings Programme and admission is free!) We'll be posting booking details on this page once all our members have been contacted. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A few late-season wild flowers

Frog Rush in VC55
Image: G. Hall
Although the season is nearly over, botanists have still been finding interesting plants in flower during the past few weeks - and a few oddities! Some rarities have been recorded but people are also enjoying finding out which of the more common species are still in flower.

A quick glance through the list of blogs by BSBI members (below right) shows that Stephen Bungard on Skye found an unusual specimen of Equisetum fluviatile (Water Horsetail), with mildew on alternate segments. 

Click here to see Stephen's photograph of the strange Horsetail and please leave a comment below if you can help Stephen who is "trying to work out how that comes about". Maybe he should consult Oli Ellingham about the mildew?

Saw-wort in Breconshire
Image courtesy of John Crellin
Ambroise Baker spotted Senecio inaequidens (Narrow-leaved Ragwort) on railway tracks near Doncaster last month and says "Keep your eyes peeled as it is likely to be under-recorded". In VC55 Leicestershire & Rutland, a second county record of Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) was confirmed by Tom Cope at Kew, who said "The species seems to be on the march across the country". Another one to watch out for?

Guardian Country Diary columnist Phil Gates (a BSBI member) reported Viola lutea (Mountain Pansy) still in flower in Teesdale.

 Nevil's Wild Life blog notes Cirsium arvense (Creeping Thistle) still in flower in Sussex and John Crellin notes Succisa pratensis (Devil's-bit Scabious) and Serratula tinctoria (Saw-wort) flowering in Breconshire

Further south in Wales, the Gower Wildlife blog reports  Hypericum humifusum (Trailing St. John's-wort) in flower earlier this month. 

Salicornia x marshallii in Co. Wexford
Image: P. Green
A few weeks ago in Montgomeryshire, BSBI's Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott found Rumex maritimus (Golden Dock) - a nice plant to welcome back Polly, who has recently returned from maternity leave. 

In Co. Wexford, Paul Green seems to be finding a new rarity every few days! On Monday it was the nationally rare Atriplex longipes (Long-stalked Orache), on Wednesday there was a first record for Ireland of Salicornia x marshallii (a hybrid Glasswort) and Friday brought news of Paula O'Meara's find of Chenopodium glaucum (Oak-leaved Goosefoot), new for Co. Wexford.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New UK awards to celebrate biological recording and information sharing.

Wildflowers really do get more interesting
the more closely you look at them!
Image courtesy of National Biodiversity Network
Biological recorders don't often get a chance to stand in the spotlight and receive well-deserved applause from their peers for all their hard work. 

Many News & Views readers will be able to think of a few people whose contributions to biological recording and information sharing are truly outstanding, raising the bar for the rest of us. 

Well, now there's a chance to acknowledge the contributions of those inspirational individuals, whether old hands or keen young enthusiasts. 

BSBI recorders at Rutland Water NNR, VC55
Image: M. Crittenden 

Over to Purba from the National Biodiversity Network to tell us more: 

The National Biodiversity Network (NBN) is now accepting nominations for the inaugural 2015 awards for outstanding contributions to biological recording, information sharing and improving our understanding of the UK’s wildlife. These awards have been developed by the National Biodiversity Network, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre and are sponsored by Swarovski Optik UK.

There are four award categories:
the Gilbert White youth award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife
the Gilbert White adult award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife
the David Robertson youth award for marine and coastal wildlife
the David Robertson adult award for marine and coastal wildlife

John Sawyer gets up close and personal with an orchid!
Image courtesy of National Biodiversity Network
The awards committee will consider the significance of the contribution (voluntary or otherwise) made to biological recording and/or improving our understanding of the UK’s biodiversity. This could include filling geographic or taxonomic gaps in our knowledge, encouraging and facilitating participation, verifying records, teaching or mentoring recorders, or creating and sharing tools and resources to support biological recording and increasing participation. 

If you, or your organisation, can think of any individuals or any groups of people that have made an outstanding contribution, please would you nominate them for the relevant award?  

John Sawyer, Chief Executive of the National Biodiversity Network said: “The NBN has received a number of nominations for the inaugural 2015 Awards for outstanding contributions to biological recording and improving our understanding of the UK’s wildlife. 

Biological recorders may have to brave the elements
 to get those records - a "Weather-writer" helps!
Image courtesy of S. Whild/BSBI T&E
“Surprisingly though, we’ve received a small number of nominations for young people (under 18 years old). We are sure there are plenty of youngsters who are on their way to becoming part of the next generation of recorders, so please think about whether there is a young star in your midst and nominate them for this award. 

“Let me also encourage you to support these inaugural national awards by nominating individuals or groups for the Gilbert White adult award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife and also for the David Robertson adult award for marine and coastal wildlife.  But hurry, the deadline for nominations is 30 September 2015.” 

Click here for a nomination form. You can nominate one person, or group, for different categories using the same form.  If you wish to nominate more than one person or group please use a separate form for each nominee.

BSBI President Ian Denholm consulting 
Clive Stace's Flora of the British Isles
 - the 'Botanists' Bible'
Image: L. Marsh
The awards will be presented at a special ceremony on the evening of 19 November 2015 as part of the two-day NBN Conference in York on 19-20 November 2015.

Many thanks to Purba for sharing this and to John and the good folks at NBN for setting up these awards. 

BSBI President Ian Denholm said "These awards are an excellent idea from our colleagues at NBN. I would encourage botanists to participate by nominating any recorder who they feel has made an outstanding contribution to biological recording and information sharing. By showing our support and thanks, we can acknowledge excellent work carried out thus far and encourage our younger recorders to get more involved - they are the future of biological recording, so let's show how much we value them." 

So it's over to you now, botanists: ready, steady - nominate!

Monday, 21 September 2015

"Piles of plants" at end of BSBI Irish AGM!

Social media was buzzing on Saturday with BSBI members in Ireland live tweeting from the Irish AGM, held at the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin.

Oisin Duffy tweeted the image on the right, of Matthew Jebb, Director of the Botanic Gardens, giving a talk titled 'In R. L. Praeger's footsteps'. 

BSBI Irish Officer Maria Long tweeted "Yes, absolutely fascinating talk on Praeger, his incredible athleticism and his botanical legacy."

Next up were talks on alien plants from Sylvia Reynolds, Paul Green, Graham Day and John Faulkner (Chair of the Committee for Ireland). Speakers focused on which alien species to look out for while botanists are out recording for Atlas 2020.

Maria tweeted the image on the left of John surrounded by piles of plants by the end of the session and everyone agreed that to a botanist, that's one sign of a successful meeting!

BSBI President Ian Denholm was at the Irish AGM so I'm hoping to hear more about it when I catch up with him on Wednesday, when BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee meets in London. If there's any juicy gossip, News & Views readers will be the first to know...