Sunday, 12 May 2013

Richard Pankhurst and the "sea of green". 

It's so easy each winter to forget all the botanical expertise you built up last summer. We all go out each spring to a "sea of green" and a bunch of stuff that we kind of know but can't quite place right now. It's not just you and me: seems this happens to even the most experienced botanists.
With Richard, looking at a hybrid dwarf willow,
near Uig, Isle of Lewis, July 2011
Photo: Paul Smith

On my first ever BSBI field meeting in May 2008, standing alone and nervous, clutching a scruffy second-hand copy of Hubbard's Grass Key, a kind older member approached. 

He asked, "That looks well-used, are you keen on grasses?" I blurted out that I knew very little and forgot most of that each winter, and he told me that exactly the same thing happened to him each year. 

His name badge showed that he was Dr. Richard Pankhurst, author of the Flora of the Outer Hebrides, and a celebrated BSBI botanist at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. As my jaw dropped and eyebrows flew up in disbelief, he assured me that it took him until June each year to really get his eye in again with plants in the field. And then you could really get going and learn new things, which would be great fun!

So don't panic if it's all a sea of green right now: the field ID tips you perfected last summer will soon come back to you. Meanwhile, enjoy the support of all the BSBI botanists who are keen to help and encourage you, and who aim to be as kind to beginners as the late and much-missed Dr Richard Pankhurst.