Thursday, 31 October 2013

BSBI botanists think outside the box... 

When Mike Porter gave Pubs a progress report on his Viola handbook, he mentioned the cunning plan that he and co-author Mike Foley (also on Pubs) had devised. They wanted to take a look at how their artist's original drawings for the illustrations were coming along. These original drawings are obviously as unsuited to being popped into a postbox as a small baby would be, so how to view the precious cargo? We all applauded the Mikes' common-sense solution and I chivvied them for a photograph and a comment. And here they are...


Sarah Holme, Mike Foley (centre) and Mike Porter
Image: a very helpful person (unknown)!
Mike Porter says "The meeting between the writers of the Viola Mini-Handbook and the artist providing our illustrations took place today at Tebay Services on the M6! Artist Sarah Holme was on her way up to Scotland with her family (travelling from Bedford); I'm based in Wigton and Mike Foley is in Blackburn, so Tebay just seemed a handy place to meet to look at Sarah's drawings. The photographer was a helpful member of the travelling public who was pressed into service!"

Next time you stop off at a service station for coffee, do glance around - BSBI botanists are everywhere these days, coming up with novel ways of Getting the Job Done!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Welsh Committee meets in Aberystwyth. 

What most botanists want to spend their time doing is this...


BSBI botanists at South Stack after the AGM, June 2012
Image: L. Marsh
And they probably hoped there wouldn't be too much of this...
Welsh Committee Meeting, October 2013
Image: I. Denholm
but BSBI's support structure for our botanists couldn't function without Committee meetings like this one, held in Aberystwyth on Saturday. 

The Welsh Committee and the  Welsh Officers, Polly and Paul, met to plan work for the year ahead in response to the needs of Recorders and local groups from each vice-county, who in turn make sure that all our members in Wales receive the support they need. We now have two Welsh Officers sharing the post - Polly in Mold and Paul in Cardiff, covering the whole country between them.


There's at least one member of the Welsh Committee
under all that Gore-Tex!
Image: L. Marsh
But BSBI botanists don't just want to get out and enjoy identifying and recording wild plants - they want to know what other botanists have recorded in the area previously, and what changes are happening over time. 

And they want to know that the plants they record today will provide valuable scientific data to help inform conservationists, policy-makers, academia, the research community...
Welsh Committee Meeting, October 2013
Image: I. Denholm

Quite a tall order, and our Vice-County Recorders do an amazing job processing all the botanical records they receive. The Rare Plant Registers and Floras that many have produced are essential reading if you want to know what grows locally - take a look at some sample pages here if you are new to Floras, or find out more about Rare Plant Registers here. But these publications take years of work, so Recorders need all the help they can get.

And that's where the Country Officers and Committees come in - they provide a support network, bringing together all the key players at country level to better respond to the needs of Recorders in vice-counties across Wales, Scotland and Ireland. 


Ian Bonner, Plas Newydd Coronation Meadow, June 2013
Image: T. Rich
The Welsh Committee benefits from having two former BSBI Presidents sitting on it (Ian Bonner and Richard Pryce) and on Saturday, they also welcomed current President Ian Denholm, who travelled to Aberystwyth to attend the meeting. Ian is keen to build on the Committee's hard work and help BSBI  "join forces with other conservation and natural history organisations to maintain the profile of biodiversity recording in Wales". 

So in Aberystwyth on Saturday, members of the Welsh Committee were happy to forego a day in the field to work out how they can best serve the recording community in Wales. And to try and bring Polly's aim of a Rare Plant Register for every vice-county in Wales a little closer to fruition! 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Lots on offer for botanists in north Wales. 

Nigel Brown (left) and BSBI members, Treborth Botanic Garden
Image: R. Parry 
Great to see the recent post on Sarah Stille's Blog: she attended the Cofnod Conference for biological recorders on Tuesday and presented a poster about local botany groups. 

Cofnod is Welsh for 'record' and the Conference was organised by North Wales Local Records Centre. Ian Bonner was there to talk about work towards a new Flora of Anglesey. He was BSBI's President until Ian Denholm took over in June, and I hope he enjoyed seeing some of the fruits of his and Pippa's hard work to support botanical recording in north Wales. 

Apparently there is now a local group in every vice-county in north Wales - excellent news for anyone in the area who wants to make a start on identifying or recording plants. 

With local botany groups popping up all over the place, maybe we need a collective noun for them - a blossoming? a stand of local groups? Please send me some better suggestions! 

Sarah tells us that she and the other Cofnod delegates enjoyed a talk from Nigel Brown of Treborth Botanic Gardens. Anyone who visited Treborth as part of the post-AGM programme of fieldtrips in June can vouch for Nigel's skills as a communicator and he has achieved amazing things at Treborth on a tiny budget. 

We loved the NVC woodland garden, showing the trees and ground flora indicative of different types of woodland, and also admired the cunning construction of the pond. A "rill" around the edge brought marginal plants right to eye-level for a small child, and was buzzing with dragonflies and bees when we visited - a great way for children to stay safe but get close to wildlife. 


Nigel Brown shows BSBI members around the glasshouse
Treborth 2013
Image: L. Marsh
We were also impressed by the patches of wildflower meadow: Nigel explained that each of these patches was micro-managed in a slightly different way, for example by pinching out the plantain flowers in one patch before they could set seed. This was an excellent way to demonstrate how tiny changes in management can have a huge impact, easily visible to a non-botanist. And once you've seen a couple of the patches, you can't wait to set off round the Gardens and look at every single one, to see how they differ from their fellows. 

A very clever idea, and there were lots more. Treborth is a real jewel among botanic gardens, and I do urge you to visit if you are in the area.

BSBI stand at  the VC55 Recorders Conference 2013
Image: K. Field
All credit to North Wales Local Records Centre for organising this regional conference for recorders. We have a similar annual conference in VC55, run successfully by our Local Authority-funded Environmental Records Centre until cutbacks made this impossible. 

Fortunately, our local Wildlife Trust came to the rescue, and took over running the event. So last February recorders from across the region enjoyed talks, presentations and, of course, the VC55 group offered a stand promoting BSBI. Well, it wouldn't be a serious Recorders Conference without BSBI at the heart of the action! 

PS Can't really close a post about Nigel Brown without mentioning the Friends of Treborth, who not only provide funding for a (very efficient) volunteer co-ordinator, but were very generous with the tea and biscuits during BSBI's visit in June. Many thanks, Friends!



Thursday, 24 October 2013

A ringing endorsement for local botany groups. 

BSBI's Council met yesterday and one item up for discussion was how we can better support our growing network of local botany groups. The interactive map on the homepage shows 44 county webpages with local recording groups, but I was able to tell Council about the new groups in South Yorkshire, North Northants and South Uist, who have been featured recently on this Blog but don't yet have a BSBI webpage of their own

So, Council members discussed how local groups might be affiliated to BSBI and what exactly constitutes a local BSBI botany group. Is it defined by the records it produces? How does it fit into any existing local network of conservation and natural history groups? Will it be supporting the Vice-county Recorders or simply adding to their already onerous workload? 


Jon Shanklin, Gwynn Ellis (Membership Sec)
 & Trevor James (BSBI News)
The issue of local groups was just one item on a packed agenda that also considered how to ensure that the BSBI's excellent referee service continues to thrive - which led to ideas around mentoring and how we can make sure that our older, more experienced members are helped to pass on their skill to the next generation of botanists. 

Several new BSBI members have emailed me recently about this, so it was great to be able to draw Council's attention to what ordinary members are thinking. As always, if you have any suggestions as to how the society can better meet the needs of its members, I'd love to hear from you at publicity@bsbi.org.uk 


Gerry Sharkey & Sylvia Reynolds
Chairs of all three BSBI National Committees were also present, so we were able to make sure that our proposals reflect the needs of our members across Britain and Ireland. It was great to have both Gerry Sharkey (Irish Chair) and  Sylvia Reynolds (BSBI Vice-President) at Council, to report from their home patch and to offer the Irish perspective on our discussions.
John Swindells, John Poland & Chris Metherell

We headed to the pub afterwards so Ian Denholm could relax with a drink after his first Council as President. I was also able to catch up with Chris Metherell and find out which herbarium he will be visiting next, and I chivvied him to send me some good photographs. 


The image (left) shows Chris giving me an old-fashioned look in the pub afterwards. I clambered onto a chair to get a half-decent photograph showing how BSBI botanists can't help looking at interesting plants, even in the pub, and especially when you have somebody like John Poland in attendance! I could hear Membership Secretary Gwynn Ellis and Trevor James (BSBI News) chortling in the background at my pathetic attempts to Do a David Bailey, but at least I managed to get some photographs where my finger doesn't appear in the corner...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A library that knows its Worth 

I confess I hadn't heard of Edward Worth, an early eighteenth century Dublin physician with an extensive botanical collection, until a fellow BSBI member sent me this link and the gorgeous image below. It's the title page to a sixteenth century herbal from the Worth Library, Dublin:




I've since been in touch with Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian at the Edward Worth Library and she's been telling me more about Worth and about this year's online exhibition, which features highlights from the botanical collection. 

What a good idea: those of us who can't get over to Ireland just now are offered a free glimpse into a fascinating collection; and any botanist planning a trip to Dublin will be making a note to contact Dr Boran and make an appointment to visit the Worth Library and explore further. The botanical collection is one of several, and I see the website has a page on John Ray, which bodes well - the Worth Library sounds an absolute treasure trove!

The image is of a title page detail from Pietro Andrea Mattioli, Opera quae extant omnia: hoc est, Commentarii in VI. libros Pedacii Dioscoridis Anazarbei de medica materia (Basle, 1598). Click on the image to enlarge it.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Which herbarium is Chris in this week? 

Herbarium volunteers at Hancock Mueum I
Image: C. Metherell
Chris Metherell has spent so much time recently in herbaria but that's par for the course if you want to write a BSBI Handbook!

A fortnight ago, Chris was looking at Euphrasia sheets from the British Museum's collection, but last week he was happy to switch roles, from researcher to herbarium volunteer. Chris put the Eyebrights on hold and went in to the Herbarium at the Hancock Museum, where he and four fellow volunteers unloaded the newly arrived crates of herbarium sheets from the old Newcastle University Herbarium. 


Herbarium volunteers at Hancock Museum II
Image: C. Metherall
Chris's team have now made a start on incorporating the sheets into the main collection, so that they can be accessed easily. The cataloguing process takes a while - every detail has to be correct! - but this gives you a chance to examine the specimens and pull out any sheets which need to be repaired or remounted. 

When volunteering in a herbarium, listen out for the little squeals of delight that signal a volunteer noticing an interesting specimen or collector's name.  Chris tells me that he and his team found several sheets collected by John Storey, a well-known local nineteenth century botanist.

They were also delighted to discover specimens collected by John Hancock and Albany Hancock, the founders of the Hancock Museum. Fitting that those sheets have "come home" at last.  

Sunday, 20 October 2013

... and BSBI gets more records! 

VC55 group at Charity Fields, Desford. June 2013
Image: L. Marsh 
Nice to hear more reports of recording activity across Britain and Ireland, and the pleasures and advantages of communal botany! 

John Crellin has been looking at how many people accompanied him on botanical surveys this year. His Blog tells us "If the support continues, then recording the vascular plants of Brecon for the next Atlas update should be secure (if still a challenge!). It's not just the company, or even the extra botanical expertise - having more eyes in the team results in more species recorded, I am sure."  
VC55 group looking at bryophytes...
Image: R. Rogers
I couldn't agree more with both John, in Breconshire and with Flora, on Sout Uist

The VC55 group has found that when botanists at all skill levels come together in the field, experts enjoy the challenge of demonstrating the characters necessary for accurate plant identification, and improvers hone their skills by helping the beginners, who pick up useful ID tips and gain confidence. We all learn new things, enjoy great company and go home with more records! 

... and lichens. Groby Pool, January 2013
Image: R. Rogers
 If you don't already have a local botany group in your VC, you may not realise how quick and easy it is to set one up. Please email me if you'd like a copy of the VC55 group's cribsheet on setting up/strengthening a local group; it has some helpful tips to help you get started or to boost participation. 


VC55 group in SE Leics, April  2012
Image: N. Crowley
A copy went to Mel Linney, who is setting up a botany group in South Yorkshire, and I'm hoping that Mel will add some new suggestions to the cribsheet - every local group will have its own ways and new ideas to share. Just think what a network of 153 local groups - one for every vice-county in Britain and Ireland - could achieve! 

Botanising together sharpens all our skills...  

Flora (3rd from left) joined us in the field...
Image: L. Marsh 
Delighted to hear from Flora Donald about the new South Uist botany group: six people attended the first meeting to look at vascular plants. Flora thinks they will switch to looking at bryophytes and/or fungi during winter "while the plants are a bit less exciting, although I'm sure we'll still be on the lookout for interesting plants and perhaps doing some vegetative ID to keep our skills ticking over" but she intends to turn back to plants next spring. 

The VC55 group does something similar, although our vascular plant recording season lasts much longer than in the Hebrides, but we also switch to bryophytes and lichens, as well as conifers and ferns. 

This stops our ID skills from rusting up completely over the winter, and makes sure we get away from the computer and out in the field together occasionally! The prospect of a warm tea-room or pub, where we can catch up with the latest botanical gossip once the light fades, keeps us focused on recording while out in the field for a few hours. 

Bearing in mind the later season in the Hebrides, Flora says "Paul [Smith - images on left] has sent us some tetrads to focus on - we will probably start on them in the late spring/summer next year so as to do them justice! 

"It's really great to be involved - I think most of us had done a bit of recording in our spare time, but going out with a group is more enjoyable and a better way to learn! We've got a nice spread of abilities and special interests so far too, so we can all learn from each other."


Paul Smith and friends, recording in the Outer Hebrides
Image: L. Gravestock
I agree with Flora that going out with your local botany group is the best way to learn about the plants in your area, and so does BSBI President Ian Denholm

Click here to see the video of Ian at Birdfair in August, explaining how local groups can help people get started with plant identification and recording and "build up from that to contributing to the scheme at a national level." And hear Alyson Freeman talk about the new North Northants botany group, which aims to attract beginners "but also experts, who can hold their hand and help them to learn about the wild plants in their area." 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A mis-named Committee? 

Pubs Committee meeting, 19/10/2013
Image: L. Marsh
BSBI's Publications Committee (aka "Pubs") met in London on Thursday for its twice-yearly overview of all our publications: not just BSBI News and New Journal of Botany, but also handbooks, leaflets and electronic publications. 

Our journals are members-only, but we are working to digitise back copies of BSBI News so everybody can see them on the website. Issues 1-121 (September 2012) are now available here and you can see what else is in the Publications archive here


Viola lactea Pale Dog-violet
Image: L. Marsh
Much of the meeting was given over to reviewing progress towards new BSBI Handbooks. Regular readers will know about Chris Metherall's visits to herbaria up and down the country, to look at specimens for his handbook on Euphrasia (Eyebrights), and he's not the only one. New handbooks on Alchemilla, Viola, Oenothera and Gentianaceae, and new editions of handbooks on Willows & Poplars, and Docks & Knotweeds, are all at various stages in the pipeline, with authors, editors and illustrators beavering away. 

We also looked at progress towards a major new BSBI book - but we're not quite ready to reveal details yet, so watch this space.


Mike Porter
Image: L. Marsh
Pubs member Mike Porter is writing the Viola handbook (when he's not working on Plant Records for NJB) - he reported difficulties in finding hybrids of Viola lactea x canina. We saw V. lactea (above left) in Beaumaris this summer, but no hybrid. Please let us know if you can help Mike out here - do you know where can he see this hybrid? 

The full list of BSBI handbooks is available here on our Publications page, which also has a link to Summerfield Books, the independent book-sellers who handle our publications and offer discounts to BSBI members on selected items. Summerfield's catalogue of natural history books is mouth-watering and they are very helpful, so do email them if you are trying to track down a particular title. Paul O'Hara of Summerfield sits on Pubs, so we also heard their latest sales report and were reminded how important it is to keep supporting independent, specialist book-sellers. 


Jane, John Poland (Chair of Pubs) and Ian Denholm
Image: L. Marsh
Summerfield will be at the AEM next month, so you can browse a selection of their stock, try out some of the many handlenses they sell and get advice from real human beings who know their stuff. Acanthophyllum Books will also be at the AEM with a selection of second-hand and antiquarian botany books, so at 5pm on November 23rd, I bet we'll all be staggering out of the Natural History Museum clutching armfuls of books we Simply Had to Have. 

President Ian Denholm and BSBI's new Head of Ops, Jane Houldsworth, also joined us at Pubs, so Jane could find out at first hand what the Committee does and how. Are we spending our small budget as effectively as possible? How do we interact with the other Committees?

Arthur Chater (left) and Alex Lockton
Image: L. Marsh
Jane is attending all BSBI Committee meetings this year on a fact-finding mission, and her observations will feed into a new strategic plan for BSBI. 

This will help us continue to spend our members' hard-earned subscriptions as carefully and effectively as possible in pursuit of the society's aims, which are to promote and support the study, understanding and enjoyment of the wild plants of Britain and Ireland. 


Arthur, Ian and Philip in the pub after Pubs.
Image: L. Marsh
BSBI's webmaster Alex Lockton came by to talk about development proposals for the website and some helpful tweaks he's made, like the site Index and the search box on the homepage. And I gave a short report on NJB, including the successful Journal of the Month promotion.

And the misnomer? Well, we all went to the pub afterwards - Philip Oswald and I had previously agreed that we simply must raise a glass in memory of Peter Sell. But although Pubs can let its hair down, it doesn't do the Full Rapunzel - so no dancing on tables, no indiscretions for me to photograph and post here, and no riotous pub-crawl. I travelled all the way to London for Pubs and we only visited one.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Memories of Peter Sell. 

Peter Sell in the Cambridge Herbarium
Image: T. Rich/National Museum of Wales
More BSBI botanists are sending in their memories of Peter Sell, who sadly died last week. 

Lynne Farrell, our Hon. General Secretary told me "I first met Peter when I was working in the Biological Records Centre at Monks Wood, and he wanted information on Hieracia (Hawkweeds).

"We went to the Brecon Beacons, to survey Craig Cerrig-gleisiad and Craig y Cilau, which was very enjoyable and I learnt to tell one Hieracium from another. Peter was an excellent botanist and good at explaining things in the field." 

Chris Preston - no mean field botanist himself - also emailed to say "I learned a massive amount from Peter. He had an amazing capacity for hard work, as shown by the account in Sell & Murrell's Flora of Great Britain and Ireland of his favourite genus Hieracium: 205 pages, including detailed descriptions of 412 species. On the other hand, hard work was always accompanied by laughter."


Hieracium neocoracinum
Image: T. Rich/National Museum of Wales
I think that sums up the pleasure that any BSBI botanist experiences going out in the field with a more experienced fellow member. You learn so much, store up ID tips and memories that stay in the mind for decades, and the data and notes you make can be useful to other botanists years afterwards. 

The image (left) shows Hieracium neocoracinum, one of the Hawkweeds of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad which Peter surveyed with Lynne.  And below is the view of Craig y Cilau.

Lynne concludes that her field notes from that trip to the Brecon Beacons "came in useful more recently when Tim Rich asked for information about the Hieracia found at these two sites."
Craig y Cilau
Image: T. Rich/National Museum of Wales





Being part of a botanical community, where we enjoy spending time together in the field and helping each other improve our  ID skills, is the reason many of us joined the society and continue to pay our subs each year. 

And it's why we mourn the loss of those eminent botanists like Peter Sell. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sad news about Peter Sell. 

Philip Oswald has just notified BSBI's Publications Committee of the very sad death last week of Peter Sell, at the age of 83.
Gina Murrell and Peter Sell in the Herbarium, Cambridge 2011
Image: P. Oswald 

An obituary will be written for the website, no doubt describing the immense contribution Peter made to British and Irish botany, but a note outlining his botanical life up to 1997 - when Peter was made an Honorary Member of the BSBI -  can also be found on pages 7- 8 of this archive copy of BSBI News No. 76. Written by Max Walters (now also sadly deceased) and Chris Preston, it captures something of the man behind the notable achievements.

Peter was a 13-year-old school-leaver when, in 1944, he joined the University of Cambridge Herbarium as a trainee herbarium assistant, working there for the rest of his career and even after his formal retirement. He went on to win acclaim as a contributor to Flora Europaea, co-author of the Flora of Cambridgeshire and, most notably, co-author with Gina Murrell of three volumes of the Flora of Great Britain and Ireland


Hieracium subaequialtum
Image: G. Calow
The Hieracium image (left) acknowledges Peter's reputation as an expert on this challenging genus. 

Arthur Chater, Gwynn Ellis, Philip and Chris have all been working with Peter on the two final volumes of the Flora. Philip comments: "Peter was a dear friend, whose single-minded devotion to British and Irish botany has inspired me ever since I first met him, in Snowdonia in 1953." 

The Society sends its condolences to all Peter's friends, family and loved ones. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Gunnera tinctoria spreading on Benbecula.  

Machair at Howmore, South Uist
Image: L. Marsh
We have received some more photographs of Gunnera tinctoria becoming established in the north and west of these islands. 

Flora Donald, Operations Officer for Scottish Natural Heritage, based on South Uist in the Western Isles, sent these images (below) of G. tinctoria "spreading along both sides of a ditch in Kyles Flodda, Benbecula". Very much as in the images from the west of Ireland, which Ian Denholm used in his State of Nature presentation. 

We met Flora at last summer's Bioblitz on South Uist, and she came out recording a few days later with the BSBI's Outer Hebrides Recording Team, led by Paul Smith


Gunnera tinctoria on Benbecula
Image: F. Donald
Flora is a second generation botanist - her father is Duncan Donald, BSBI's county recorder for Wester Ross, vc105. She's had a busy few months on Uist, and tells me she has been "liaising with bodies like CnES, SEPA and the Fisheries Trust to gather information and advise on action to take involving problem species". 

Flora is currently working with the Outer Hebrides Biological Recording group - actually, we met Bill Neil, the Chair of OHBR, at the very same Bioblitz on South Uist in July: he and Paul had a serious chinwag about recording. Hardly surprising: as well as being county recorder for the Outer Hebrides (jointly with Richard Pankhurst, until Richard's sad death in March of this year), Paul also sits on BSBI's Records Committee and is a statistician in his day job. Give him half a chance to talk about plant recording and it's hard to drag him away!


Recording at the South Uist Bioblitz;
Flora on left, Paul on right.
Image: L. Marsh
Flora tells me that she and colleagues at SNH are working with Bill and OHBR to encourage people to report observations of the following invasive species: Rhododendron ponticum, Fallopia japonica, Acaena novae-zelandiae, Elodea spp. and Gunnera spp. "This is so we can map their distribution and start planning what action we might be able to take, based on the scale of the problem". The records are also sent to BSBI  and go onto our Distribution Database

All this has been keeping her busy, and I don't think she's had time to do much yet about the proposed local flora group (!) for South Uist, but she did manage to attend Fred Rumsey's sedge course at Kindrogan, and tells me it was  "excellent - can't wait to go out looking for sedges in the Uists now!" 


G. tinctoria on Benbecula
Image: L. Marsh
The BSBI Hebridean Recording Team all warmed to Flora when we met her on South Uist - she is very approachable and also keen to improve her (already pretty impressive) field skills. 

So we weren't surprised when we asked who she studied under and were told, with a broad smile: Richard Pankhurst at RBGE. Anyone who has been following this Blog will know the esteem in which Richard was held, but if not - take a look here, here and here.  

Thursday, 10 October 2013

BSBI Welsh Officer is back! 

This week, BSBI welcomes back its Welsh Officer, Polly Spencer-Vellacott, from maternity leave. She has already posted on her Blog where there are some photos of Polly along with the reason for her absence (the adorable Jay). 

Here's a photo of Polly at the recent Recorders Conference with Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh and Head of Ops Jane Houldsworth. Polly is also in the foreground in this picture of BSBI members at Cookham, on one of the field meetings following the AGM last year.

BSBI members at Cookham

The best  news is that we have Polly back but we keep Paul Green, who has been acting Welsh Officer during Polly's maternity leave.

Paul has done some great work - a successful Polypodium workshop last spring, and he manned the stand at Treborth's Big Science Day. 
Paul and Polly are going to share the Welsh Officer post - more details on Polly's Blog - so BSBI now has two Welsh Semi-Officers. Best of both worlds!  
   
Paul at the Polypodium workshop
Photo: C. Gait
Hoping to catch up with Polly and Paul at the AEM in November, but better get my skates on - I hear from Uta, who is co-ordinating bookings for the AEM, that they are flooding in and the list for herbarium tours is filling up.

Have you sent in your booking yet? 

BTW I can't remember who took the photo of us at Cookham - if you know, please get in touch so I can insert a photographer credit.

Friday, 4 October 2013

BSBI News: part two. 

Lynne's champagne moment
Image: J. Clare  
From aquatic plants in restored Yorkshire canals to Mike Wilcox's hybrid hazels, figworts and thistles, from updates on Red List plant taxa (Pete Stroh, Kevin Walker and Simon Leach) to where Butterbur is native in Britain, there's just so much to read in the latest BSBI News. Like the full account of Lynne Farrell's final tetrad on Mull, as previewed here in August, and notes from the three country officers and the new Head of Operations. 

And when you reach the end of this issue, the good news is that there are 121 back issues - starting with the very first, in 1972, and going right up to September last year - now available on the website and you don't need to be a member to view or download them for personal use. 

Man x Monkey Orchid: page 34 of News #124
Image: M.R. Chalk
BSBI News helps you keep your finger on the society's pulse and tap into what members are observing or thinking about. As Receiving Editor Trevor James points out, "Over the years, it has not only been an important means of communicating news about current activity and contacts to members, but also has developed into an important vehicle for keeping people abreast of current understanding about our plants and their study." Yes, quite: BSBI News has, after all, been lauded in the Telegraph although I can't possibly agree with Ken Thompson's comments about New Journal of Botany  

My favourite item in this issue comprises a few lines on page 57. Mel Linney, having read about the local BSBI group in VC55, is keen to hear at this address from "anyone who may be interested in forming a botany group in South Yorkshire" and has scheduled two meetings for 2014 to get things started. Details will be in the Field Meetings calendar and you can pick up a copy at the AEM in November. Good luck, Mel - let us know how you get on!


BSBI local field meeting, VC55
Image: L. Marsh 
Least favourite item in this issue? The very sad news in the Stop Press section about recent developments at the National Museum, Wales. Gwynn Ellis, General Editor of BSBI News, expresses his concern that "the curation of the Herbarium and the provision of botanical services in general looks to be very unsatisfactory for the future." He continues, "I am sure all members will join with me in hoping that, even at this eleventh hour, some way will be found to keep the Vascular Plant Section staffed by the same botanists at a level commensurate with their expertise and standing." 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

BSBI News. 

The gardens at RBGE. Image: I. Denholm.  
Last week, BSBI members enjoyed the thrice-yearly thrill of anticipation that accompanies finding the latest issue of BSBI News on the doormat. 

You can go straight for the main course and sit down with News, expecting to be engrossed for the next few hours. Or you can enjoy the hors d'oeuvres, like the flyer inside BSBI News no.124 which offers BSBI members a 20% discount on John Edgington's forthcoming book, 'Who found our ferns?' 

BSBI wins Birdfair Best Stand Award 2013 (Conservation)
Image: L. Marsh
There are booking forms in this issue for the Scottish Annual Meeting (offering a tour of the herbarium at RBGE) on 2nd November and for the AEM (with the chance of a guided tour of the NHM herbariumon 23rd November. 

The two meetings are widely acknowledged as annual highlights in the botanical world, but the chance to go behind-the-scenes at two of Britain's 'Big Three' herbaria must be the cherry on the cake! 
Sarah, Lynne and Ian at "Meetings"
Image: L. Marsh

The back cover of this issue of News displays my favourite photograph from Birdfair - apologies for showing you this again (on left) but 'Best Stand Award 2013 (Conservation)' - can you really blame me?

Opening up BSBI News, there's the usual dilemma - which way to look first? Eyes left to the first batch of colour photographs (this issue has some gorgeous ones of Michael Chalk's to accompany his note on Man x Monkey Orchid Orchis x bergonii)? Or eyes right to skim down 'Contents' and note that this issue is 72 pages long. That's comparatively slim for BSBI News, which is sometimes 100+ pages, but the length is determined by how many suitable submissions the editors (Gwynn and Trevor) receive. 


Laura at Big Nature Day, NHM
Image: O. Pescott
So if you want even more in your News, it's up to all of us to contribute - you don't necessarily have to be a member to submit an article, but it should be of relevance to the BSBI membership. Ask Trevor if in doubt. 

Notes from our new President Ian Denholm kick off this issue; he offers us a potted history of his (botanical) life so far, thanks his predecessor, Ian Bonner, and brings us up to speed on recent developments in the society.

Ian Denholm at the State of Nature launch, NHM
Image: L. Marsh
Great to read Ian's comment that he is "personally very committed to ... strengthening our external profile among potential sponsors, other related organisations, the media and the public at large". 

Ian writes about the outreach events BSBI has attended this year - like 'Big Nature Day' (above right) - and he thanks and acknowledges the BSBI volunteers who made possible our successes.
Ian on the stand at Birdfair
Image: L. Marsh
You'd expect no less from a President who has been the driving force behind all BSBI's recent publicity and outreach initiatives: whether co-ordinating and advising on strategy in his role as Chair of Meetings & Communications Committee (above left); engaging with conservationists and journalists (above) or happily pitching in on exhibition stands (right). 

I'm only on page four of News and already I've filled up a whole Blogpost! Part the second will have to follow, once I've read David Hambler's piece on page 5 about the intriguingly-named Salicornia obscura - only in BSBI News...