Tuesday, 23 September 2014

BSBI pays tribute to David Pearman

David on sparkling form at Kew, chatting to Peter Marren,
Gwynn Ellis & Mike McCarthy
Last Wednesday's launch of the England Red List at Kew was just one part of a very big day for BSBI, with botanists coming together earlier in the day to pay tribute to David Pearman

Amongst David's many achievements are: co-authoring the 2002 New Atlas of the British & Irish florabeing BSBI President 1995-1998; and chairing BSBI Records & Research Committee until this February, when he handed over to Paul Smith


Admiring Rosemary Fitzgerald's amusingly-captioned
photographs of David in the field 
The Society wanted to mark these achievements and thank David for all he has done for BSBI and for British botany. So our Meetings Committee has spent the last few months planning a day of botanical talks and celebrations, and trying to make sure that David didn't get wind of what we were up to! 
Pearman, Preston & Dines: the New Atlas team re-united

We were helped in this endeavour by the excellent Anita Pearman (the secret of David's success!) and BSBI President Ian Denholm paid tribute to both of them, saying "David’s hard work, talent and enthusiasm have been pivotal in expanding and revitalising scientific work within BSBI. We owe him a great debt. He’s also a fantastic guy. As incoming President I benefited hugely from his patient mentoring and (like many others) from the incredible hospitality provided by David and Anita at ‘Algiers’!” 

So, what did we come up with for the fantastic guy? First of all, Ian and Paula Rudall (Kew's new Head of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology) opened the day's proceedings and welcomed around seventy guests to Kew. 


Chris and Mark before their talks
They included David, several members of his family, and some of the many people he has worked with through the years. Then, Ian introduced a morning of scientific talks. 

Chris Preston kicked off with a talk entitled (with typical Preston wit) 'Hybrids: nature's dross?" 

Then Mick Crawley gave us 'In praise of small-scale Floras' and Mark Gurney (RSPB) closed the morning session with a talk on 'Gains and losses: recent colonisations and extinctions in Britain'. 

Alfred and the "furry seeds"
Next came a buffet lunch in the Jodrell Atrium, and many thanks to Kew for allowing us use of the Jodrell for our celebrations. If you know David and his love of garden plants, as well as wild flowers, I think you will agree that there could be no more suitable venue than Kew. 

And Kew Gardens proved an excellent hunting ground for one budding botanist. Judging by his pleasure in finding Platanus hispanica leaves and "furry seeds", David's grandson Alfred may be set to follow in his forebear's illustrious footsteps! 


David Roy and slide of David P. with a Hogweed in Turkey
After lunch, David Roy gave a talk on 'BRC and BSBI: working together for 50 years and future opportunities'. And then we had short talks about David’s contributions to and influence on botany from some more of his many friends, including Chris Cheffings, Trevor Dines, Gwynn Ellis, Lynne Farrell, Peter Marren, Fred Rumsey and Ken Thompson. 
Gwynn's slide: David shows the New Atlas
to the Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP

Some comments were quite irreverent! 

Pete Stroh, who has botanised with David in the Hebrides, said "No matter the weather or terrain, in the field David appears to have endless energy, is a wealth of information, rather too fearless for my constitution, and is someone who will be impossible to replace. He does need to work on his culinary skills though!" 

Hmm, I wonder what strange delights David rustled up for Pete after a long day in the field...?  


Cameras at the ready: David cuts the cake..,
There were no worries about culinary skills when we all tasted the amazing cake made for us by Helen Hesketh of CEH. Meetings Committee had heard that her cake for the BRC 50th anniversary celebrations was scrumptious and looked fabulous, so we asked her for something suitable for David. 

Anita had tipped us off that chocolate cake is a favourite chez Pearman, and Helen managed to recreate the BSBI logo, decorate the cake with gorgeous sugar Bluebell flowers and ice it with a simple message that said it all: Thank you David. 


...watched by Alfred and Anita
The cake looked almost too good to eat... but we are botanists, so we scoffed it and can confirm that it tasted as good as it looked.

Lynne Farrell also presented David with a commemorative plant, Cytisus x kewensis 'Niki', a Broom cultivar which David is rather fond of, and which we hope will flourish in the Pearman garden at 'Algiers'. That's in Cornwall, in case you were wondering! 

And Lynne gave him a big card signed by all present to mark this Red Letter Day and lead us nicely into the launch of the England Red List!  


Lynne, David, "Red Letter" &
Cytisus x kewensis 'Niki'
The final word should go to Kevin Walker (BSBI's Head of Science & Research),  who spoke for all of us: "David’s contribution to the society has been enormous. He has been the driving force behind so many things - the New Atlas, a successful recording network, as well as forging closer relations with our key partners such as CEH, the conservation agencies and Plantlife. This has opened up the resources the Society needed to grow and become the impressive organisation it has become today. I, personally, can’t thank him enough and can’t imagine a BSBI without him". 


Kevin Walker (and remains of cake!)
Many thanks to Paula and the team at Kew for enabling us to hold this celebration at the Jodrell, to Ian Denholm, Lynne Farrell and Jodey Peyton of Meetings Committee for co-ordinating the day, to Helen Hesketh for the cake, to the BSBI Publicity Volunteers for taking photographs and tweeting about the day; and to all who came along and raised a glass to David Pearman.

And of course to the man himself, seen here surrounded by some of his many friends in the Society. Thank you, David.