Friday, 31 January 2014

Herbaria buzzing with activity all month.

I hope Peter Sell would have approved of all the activity in British & Irish herbaria this past month. You've already heard about what Chris and Susanne have been doing, and I know that both Waheed (BSBI Blogger) and Phoebe (member of the new Clare group) have been hard at work in herbaria this month - at Kew and in Galway. And Clive Stace was in the Herbarium at Leicester earlier this month to look at a specimen he collected in 1953.


Martin and the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition
Image: M. Godfrey
But Martin Godfrey has also been in touch about another way of using herbarium sheets. At the Potteries Museum in Stoke, they have been using specimens "to illustrate the plant material found in local Saxon excavations as part of the current Staffordshire Hoard exhibition.  The idea is to put the Hoard into a cultural context". 

Botanical collections really are a valuable resource and many are under threat, so it's great to see yet another example of herbarium sheets being used to inform, inspire and engage people.


Martin (right) in the field with Ian Denholm.
Beaumaris 2013
Image: L. Marsh
Martin says "Although the primary plants I selected were "economic" - things like hazel for the nuts, birch for charcoal and madder as a dyestuff, I did also include some "medicinal" items like woundwort and if you look just to my right in the photo (above), you will see greater plantain - the Waybread of the Anglo Saxons which was one of their nine sacred herbs and has a wonderful spell associated with it".

Martin concludes "It is great to see the value of plant collections being recognised and used to illuminate broader exhibitions - in this case, in recognition of the fact that in the past, plants meant a great deal more to people than they do today."

NB I've asked Martin for the "wonderful spell" and will publish it here when it arrives - maybe it will help us conjure up a botanical genie offering us 3 planty wishes for 2014? What would yours be?

STOP PRESS RBGE Curator Elspeth Haston was interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland and the interview is available as an Audiobook here. She talks about the oldest specimen in the Herbarium (collected 1697), and the new species (around one each week) being described thanks to work carried out at RBGE.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A new BSBI group in the west of Ireland: part one.

Some of the BSBI Clare members
Image: P. O'Brien
A great start to the botanical recording year: news of the formation of the Clare BSBI Group, which held its first field meeting on 18th January 2014. Stephen Ward has been in touch to let us all know how it went; he is joint VC Recorder (with Sharon Parr) for H09 Clare, which comprises the administrative County of Clare and the Aran Islands (part of the administrative County of Galway). Stephen said "We had a successful first day, botanising at Carrownaclogh, R1588 and The Glen, Ennistymon, R1288, with smiley pictures and two substantial monad lists to prove it". 

I asked Phoebe O'Brien, one of the members of the new County Clare group, what made her want to get involved. She told me "County Clare is known for the Burren, an area of limestone pavement famous for its flora of arctic alpines and Mediterranean plants. It’s an area I have visited quite often during my Bachelor Degree at the National University of Ireland in Galway. My home is also in County Clare but inland, away from the Burren and the coast, with quite different plant communities. 


Clare recorders and doggie friends
Image: P. O'Brien
"Now that I am a qualified Botanist I want to explore as much as I can and learn as many plants as possible, starting with Irish native plants. To this purpose I joined the BSBI, and when I heard about the starting of a local group of recorders I jumped at the chance. The County Clare Group is organised by Stephen Ward and by Sharon Parr, who works on the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme which has been such a success. 

"It was a little intimidating at first (since my knowledge is so limited!) to join the group, but since everyone was so friendly and helpful I need not have worried. Stephen had chosen an area near Ennistimon to start the year's recording. It was next to a river and waterfall, and we followed a path into a hidden gorge. I was amazed at just how much I could identify in January when so few flowers were present and the plants looked not at their best. 

"It has been a mild winter here, though fairly wet. We were lucky on the day, the rain held off and after lunch we walked up a country lane toward an area of cut-over bog. The things which mostly caught my eye were the ferns and seed heads of last year’s plants. In the winter it’s easy to get distracted by lichens and mosses too, as my photos showed when I got home. I’m looking forward to the next meeting in February in East Clare."


Stephen & Co step out, recording card at the ready
Image: P. O'Brien
The Clare BSBI group are hoping to set up their own page on the BSBI website, so they can set out their group's aims and aspirations, including any recording targets they might want to set themselves towards the next Atlas. They will also be able to share resources, information about their meetings and give contact details for those wishing to attend.

Website Officer Alex Lockton is happy to set up a webpage for any local BSBI group who would like one. You just need to send him some text and a few nice images

Phoebe has also been telling me more about some of the exciting projects in Clare and on the Aran Islands, so I'm encouraging the Clare group to set up their own Blog and tell us more about farming for conservation on the Burren. 

But for now, Stephen says "If anyone (especially residents in Clare / Aran Islands) wishes to join the Clare BSBI Group on a field outing, please will they send their email address to me (Stephen Ward) at burrensward@gmail.com. I will send out further details of the next meeting as soon as possible, but it will be on 22nd February in the vicinity of Feakle in East Clare (Hectad R58). 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

BSBI News 125 and Yearbook 2014 now out. 

Gwynn Ellis and Trevor James have finished the latest issue of BSBI News and the Big Mail-out has started! Members: your copy should be dropping through your letterbox in the next few days, but Gwynn and Trevor allowed me a quick peek at the Contents list, so here's a sneak preview for you:
  • A note on new sites for the gorgeous Allium on the front cover. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you which sub-species or variety it is!
  • A note on 'Dorset's last Wild Asparagus: back from the brink of extinction?' by Simon Leach et al. Simon's recent co-authored paper in New Journal of Botany 'Botanical records and their role in shaping nature conservation priorities and actions' has proved incredibly popular, so it's great to see him in News too.
  • Report on incidence of Polypogon viridis on British & Irish streets. Have you spotted it?
  • An extra ID character for Veronica agrestis/polita - now what on earth can that be...?
  • Kevin Walker and David Roy (CEH) on a new plant surveillance and monitoring scheme for semi-natural habitats. Work on this new scheme was already underway when Ash Dieback arrived on our shores, so we can also announce that...
  • BSBI is about to make a very big SPLASH as one of the key players in a major new project to survey, quantify and monitor the long-term impacts of Ash Dieback on the ground flora and epiphytes associated with ash trees in woodlands. 
Woodland, Hackfall
Image: K. Walker
Kevin Walker has been working closely with colleagues across the botanical and recording communities on both these projects, and SPLASH brings together the British Bryological Society, the British Lichen Society, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and, of course, BSBI. Read all about SPLASH, and find out how you can get involved, in BSBI News 125.

Apologies to non-members but you can only receive the latest BSBI News and the Yearbook once you have joined the society. News brings you all the latest plant sightings, ID tips and Big Botanical Ideas from BSBI members across Britain and Ireland, and the Yearbook has all our BSBI contacts, including the list of our expert referees and how to get in touch with them. 

Yes, if you are a BSBI member you can call on the services of international botanical experts like Prof Richard Bateman and Dr Donald Pigott, as well as our dedicated Beginners' Referees, to help you ID that plant. And it's absolutely free... but only once you have joined, so what are you waiting for? 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Which herbarium is Susanne in this month? 

Apart from a short break hanging off a rope in Madagascar (to get a better look at an orchid), Susanne Masters has been hard at work researching the effects of collection and habitat loss on edible orchids in Turkey. This involves visiting a lot of herbaria; easily as much fun as hanging off a rope - try both and compare them, if you don't believe me!

Susanne emailed "I was at the Natural History Museum earlier this week, and while going through specimens for my research came across quite a few that really brought to life either the plants or the different stories attached to each specimen. 

"APG3's rearrangement of plants has led to some changes in species names, and in the cataloguing of plant specimens. Using DNA was a significant component of APG3 and, as DNA techniques become more sophisticated, herbarium specimens are not only a record of morphology but also a resource from which DNA can be extracted and used to address current research questions. 

"Before digital photography provided a cheap and accessible tool, painted illustrations were the way to capture the colours of flowers and leaves to accompany pressed specimens. In some ways careful painting reproduces the impression of a white-flowered Serapias more vividly than even the best photograph. 

"A specimen that initially looked a bit insect-eaten and underwhelming was revealed to be somewhat more exciting on reading the accompanying text; the type specimen for Orchis fusca named by Jacquin in 1776 is currently officially known as Orchis purpurea Hudson (1762). I have seen sites where Anacamptis coriophora has been collected for salep in Turkey, so seeing an old specimen named 'Orchis exqua Salep' collected in Persia is an interesting image to pass on to an Iranian scientist based in Sweden who is working on the collection of orchids for salep in Iran. 

"Perhaps my favourite specimen was the type specimen of Orchis heroica collected by Reverend Edward Daniel Clarke. This plant is now known as Anacamptis papilonacea. 

"Undoubtedly the Reverend's choice of name was inspired by the site of collection, the tomb of Hector in Troy.  200 years ago, the Reverend picked an orchid on a UNESCO World Heritage site that is believed to be the site of first contact between Mediterranean and Anatolian civilisations. Even without GPS equipment, the Reverend has left a message that exceeds human lifetimes - orchids used to grow around the ruins of Hector's tomb. My question is: do they still grow there?"

All images of herbarium sheets on this post are reproduced by permission of the Natural History Museum. Click on the images to enlarge them and read those all-important herbarium labels..

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Re-joining the BSBI. 

BSBI field meeting, Rutland water, 2012
Image: M. Crittenden
Good to hear from lapsed BSBI member Alan, who has just re-joined the society "because I wanted to learn more about plants but also because it seems to be a more accessible organisation than it was before. I think online presence plays an important part in this, with all the old newsletters and other resources such as the Plant Crib being available to download."

Alan has an excellent Blog called 'Learning About Plants' and now that he has re-joined, I have been able to add him to the list of Blogs by BSBI members (on the right). Do take a look at our 28th BSBI members' Blog for fascinating posts about plant ID with some great illustrations, from pressed specimens to pages from Alan's sketch-book. His drawings are really very good!

BSBI field meeting, Donegal 2013
Image: M. Long
Only one thing that worried me on Alan's Blog. He is obviously an accomplished botanist keen to improve his skills further, but refers to having "plucked up the courage" to book himself onto a few BSBI field meetings this year. I'm sure that after the first one, he will see for himself how friendly BSBI botanists are, and how much they want to help him learn. 

But here's a plea to any old hands attending meetings this year: think back to your first ever BSBI field meeting. I bet you were a bit daunted as you headed for the assembly point, not sure what would be expected of you. Would you be laughed at for not knowing your petiole from your peduncle? You've probably forgotten that brief nervousness, because as soon as you started botanising with your fellow members, you had a whale of a time and have never looked back! But this year, if you spot any new recruits at a field meeting, please remember to put them at ease straight away, so they can relax and enjoy every moment of their first BSBI field meeting. And then we can all get on with sharing field ID tips and honing our botanical skills together.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Snowdrops: ID is as important as phenology! 

Galanthus nivalis at Welford
Image: M. Crawley
Lots of interest recently - in print and social media  - about whether snowdrops are in flower early this year. But far less being written about how to identify which species or cultivar is under observation! 

So, may I point you all in the direction of Prof Mick Crawley's excellent Snowdrop ID key? It's one of many useful training resources here on our identification page.

If you've used the Snowdrop Key before, you'll know how helpful it is, especially if you are just getting started with identifying plants. So this is a reminder to try it again this spring. 

If you haven't tried the Snowdrop Key yet - it's free, easy to download and easy to use. You are welcome to try it out, whether for personal interest or as a teaching aid (but no commercial use, please). Have a go - it's fun and a great excuse to get outdoors for a while! 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Which herbarium is Chris in this month? 

Chris Metherell in the Herbarium, University of Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
Another year, another herbarium! Eyebright expert Chris Metherell started the New Year with a visit to the Herbarium at University of Leicester LTR so he could look at yet more specimens of Eyebright Euphrasia

Once Chris's BSBI Handbook on Eyebrights is published - next year? - you will all be able to see just how exhaustive his research has been. But for now, these regular reports will have to do. So, these are Chris's comments, reproduced verbatim for reasons which will become clear:

"Great day at the University of Leicester Herbarium, viewing some of Peter Yeo's early specimens, including some unusual hybrids I've not been able to track down elsewhere. I concentrated on the N. Scottish material and hybrids of E. arctica but spotted some really interesting material to have a look at next time I come - E. arctica x salisburgensis - wow! And lots of material collected by Tom Tutin in Ireland. 


Richard Gornall (left), Chris Metherell & Eyebright specimens
Image: L. Marsh
"A really good start to the New Year, resulting in some slightly tweaked hybrid descriptions. A really well-organised and curated herbarium."

Thanks Chris and (declaration of personal involvement) glad you enjoyed visiting LTR where I have the pleasure and privilege of being part-time Herbarium Assistant under Curator Richard Gornall. 

Chris nears the end of a full day of Eyebright research
Image: L. Marsh
So I could hear all Chris's little squeals of delight as he worked through our Eyebright specimens. When they escalated into a full-blown "wow!"  I quickly checked in Stace 3 and on the BSBI Database to see if Euphrasia arctica x salisburgensis really deserved that wow. Click on those links to see if you agree that it does. 

Similar sounds emanated from the tea room shortly after, when Chris produced a chocolate cake for the Herbarium Team

So, if you want to visit your local herbarium and see things that make you go "wow!" then try following Chris's example: when you phone the curators to arrange your visit, check what kind of cake they like best! 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Botanical snippets: latest news, resources, gossip and free stuff! 

From left: Clive Stace, John Bailey & Richard Gornall
Image: L. Marsh
1.End of an era: eminent botanists, including two BSBI past Presidents, gathered earlier this month to mark Dr John Bailey's retirement from the University of Leicester and to acknowledge his contributions so far to BSBI and British botany, including long service as Secretary of BSBI Meetings Committee . 

2. Annals of Botany have a special issue on pollinator-driven speciation in plants and are offering the content free for one month. If you've finished the latest issue of New Journal of Botany and want more reading material - click here for the special issue, or follow the AoB Blog  which is also listed under Blogs by BSBI members (sidebar on right) right: Pat Heslop-Harrison, Annals of Botany Editor and Chief Blogger, is - of course! - a BSBI member.  

Lime coppice in VC62
Image: M. Allen
3. Find out more about why taxonomy matters in the 21st century by reading this excellent summary from BioNET and some fascinating case studies. Click here to find out "how taxonomic knowledge is applied around the world to save LIVES, save CROPS, save HABITATS, save SPECIES, save MONEY and more..." 

4. Another new Blog by a BSBI member: this one kicks off with an interesting contribution to the recent ancient woodland debate, looking at coppicing of Tilia cordata (Small-leaved Lime) and acknowledging the invaluable contribution of Dr D Pigott, BSBI's Tilia referee and a world expert on the genus. Click here to view the Blog or find it in the list (sidebar on right) of 27 Blogs by BSBI members. 

Don't forget: any BSBI member can consult our specialist referees - we have over 100, including two beginners' referees. Access to our network of referees is yet another perk of BSBI membership!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Re-analysing our Plant Hunt data. 

Musk Stork's-bill flowering in Lincs
Image: S. Lambert
Members of the public have started reporting 'first sightings' of plants in flower over the past few days, leading some media commentators to wonder if this is evidence that spring has come early this year. 

Tim Rich, Co-ordinator of BSBI's New Year's Plant Hunt, was a little surprised to hear this: it did not chime with the findings of BSBI botanists and members of the public who recorded what was in flower over the New Year period. So, he re-analysed the data in terms of spring- summer- and autumn-flowering species. This is his comment on what he found:


Red Dead-nettle flowering in Wilts.
Image: T. Havenith
"Whilst a very few spring flowers can be found flowering early, the dominant feature of the winter weather is the late mild autumn with lack of frosts which have allowed an amazing 221 species to be recorded flowering by members of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland over the New Year period.

Of the 221 species recorded only 8 (3.6%) were typical spring-flowering, native species such as Primrose or Lesser Celandine, and these represented only 2% of the 1075 total records.  

In contrast, species continuing to flower from the autumn such as knapweed or yellow-wort made a massive 91% of the species in flower (69% of the records overall).  

Ten species (4.5%) were those which typically flower all year such as Groundsel or chickweed (28% of all records), and one species, winter heliotrope, normally flowers during the winter.

Just as one swallow does not make a summer, a few snowdrops do not make an early spring".

Many thanks to Tim for doing this re-analysis. So, which are you seeing in your neck of the woods: early spring flowers or late autumn flowers? 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Oliver Rackham comments on Ancient Woodlands and Biodiversity Offsetting.  

The following comments regarding ancient woodlands and biodiversity offsetting have been received from Professor Oliver Rackham (University of Cambridge), who is currently on a visit to the USA

"Others will probably point out that the Secretary of State is repeating the old canard that planting trees is a substitute for conserving trees: that woodland can be created at will on any land that no-one else happens to want. But there are other aspects that should not be overlooked.

     He has not caught up with the new fact that tree-planting is no longer a beneficial and risk-free activity: it carries a risk to existing trees.
Planting on the scale that he envisages could not be supported by the domestic nursery trade and would result in more importing of foreign trees and foreign soil and foreign tree diseases - as witness Ash Disease.
Planting trees on an industrial scale promotes globalization of tree diseases, which has recently emerged as the most serious of all threats to the world's trees and forests.

    I gather from what has reached me at third hand that the Secretary of State is advocating something like the 'land-banking' that is official policy in New South Wales. It is highly controversial there, especially as it is an incentive to corruption. I would advise wildlife trusts not to touch it.

     The proposals would seem to require developers to acquire three acres for every acre that they do now. Moreover they would have to promise to remain in business for long enough to see a woodland creation project through to completion. Is this realistic?"

BSBI welcomes comments on ancient woodlands and biodiversity offsetting from all its members. Email me at louise.marsh@bsbi.org or post shorter comments below: 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ancient Woodlands and Biodiversity Offsetting: what do BSBI members think?

Sanicle Sanicula europaea
Image: I. Denholm
Lots of coverage in the media recently about ancient woodlands, but here at BSBI we like to take an objective look at the evidence.

So what is it about ancient woodlands in particular that has caused both the Woodland Trust and 38 degrees to launch petitions to protect them?

Well, it’s not just about the trees - Miles King makes that point very well here

Any botanist who has carried out Local Wildlife Site surveys for a Wildlife Trust or Local Authority will have entered a wood with a checklist of Ancient Woodland Indicator plants. 

Toothwort Lathraea squamaria
Image: I. Denholm
These lists were the brainchild of George Peterken and Francis Rose, and tell you which plants to look out for in order to find out if the site meets the criteria to be designated as a Local Wildlife Site. 

Ancient Woodland Indicator lists vary according to region, but are likely to include such plants as Toothwort Lathraea squamaria, Herb-Paris Paris quadrifolia and Sanicle Sanicula europaea

Grime et al. (1988) point out that Sanicle “is long-lived, with a half-life of between 59 and 360 years (Inghe & Tamm, 1985). Thus, [it] may live for as long as the trees above it”. 

Image: I. Denholm
This certainly doesn’t mean that all ancient woodlands are teeming with interesting wildflowers, or that all secondary woodland is species-poor – far from it! 

But regarding Bluebells, Grime et al. point out that “In some lowland areas... the species is largely restricted to ancient woodland (Rackham, 1980) and may therefore be declining”. 

If you’d like to know more about ancient woodlands, the works of Prof Oliver Rackham - a BSBI member since 1980 - should be your first port of call. 

In The History of the Countryside (1986), he says “Our historic woods are not mere isolated relics of antiquity, but belong to an unbroken tradition extending through the Middle Ages back to the beginnings of civilization and beyond.”    


Herb-Paris Paris quadrifolia
Image: K. Walker
BSBI President Ian Denholm said “these proposals from the Government conflict with their stated commitment to act on the findings of the recent ‘State of Nature’ report, which documented alarming declines in species (including flowering plants, mammals, birds and insects) that are habitat specialists, dependent on the retention and correct management of long-established tracts of woodland.  I would encourage BSBI members to look at these campaigns and consider adding their support.”

The 38 degrees petition calls on Owen Patterson to “Please stop the proposal under ‘Biodiversity Offsetting’ to allow the destruction of our Ancient Woodlands for building”. 

The Woodland Trust petition is addressed to the Prime Minister, copying in Forestry Minister Dan Rogerson. It begins “I want to see better protection for ancient woodland” and goes on to suggest some options for how to achieve this. It closes by calling for “an open, constructive discussion on these options”.

References:
Grime, J.P., Hodgson, J.G. & Hunt, R. 1988. Comparative Plant Ecology: a functional approach to common British species. London: Unwin Hyman
Rackham, O.1986. The history of the countryside. London: J.M. Dent 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

BSBI Irish Members' Conference. 

Glasshouse at the Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Image: M. Long
Maria Long, the BSBI's Irish Officer, is just sending out the first details of the BSBI Members' Conference, to be held at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin from 28th-30th March. 

You can see the flyer here or follow the link on the BSBI - Irish Section's Facebook page. More details to follow. 
 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Using social media to promote botany. 

I was going to write a Blogpost about this, but Jonathan Mitchley got there first and has saved me a job - thanks, Dr M! But here is a short video of botanist Anne Osterreider explaining how to get students so keen to work on their biology projects that they forsake watching sport on the telly! 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Year's Plant Hunt: the results. 

We asked botanists to spend up to three hours listing any wild flowers and garden escapes in flower over New Year, but not species planted in gardens. Around 70 BSBI members responded to the call, and members of the public also contributed records via Facebook or on Twitter at BSBIPlantHunt.  We received 48 lists of plants in flower from 32 counties across Britain and Ireland: from Cornwall to Orkney and from Suffolk to Anglesey and Wexford in Ireland. The records covered a wide range of plants and most botanists were surprised at how many species they found in flower. 
Delairea odorata German-ivy flowering in Cornwall
Image: Elise O'Donnell

Plant Hunt Co-ordinator Tim Rich has now finished collating all our records, so here are our results:

·         221 species in flower, of which:
·         164 species are native to Britain and Ireland (about 10% of our native wild flowers), and
·         57 species are non-native or escaped from gardens.

The most commonly recorded species were Groundsel (40 out of 48 records = 83%), Daisy (81%) and Dandelion (69%) which are well known to flower during the winter. Other species recorded in over half of the lists were Smooth Sowthistle, Annual Meadow Grass, Chickweed, Shepherd’s Purse, Dwarf Spurge, Common Field-speedwell and Red Deadnettle. Gorse, well known to flower all year, was recorded in 44% of the lists.  In contrast, another 104 species were only recorded once; these are the more unusual occurrences of plants flowering out of season. 


Erodium cicutarium Musk Stork's-bill in Lincs.
Image: Sarah Lambert
The most species found flowering during any one survey were jointly in Cardiff and Leicester (66 in flower). 15 lists had more than 30 species recorded flowering whilst 14 had fewer than 10 species. 

In general, more species were recorded in the south compared to the north, and more species were recorded in towns and cities, where there are more weeds and the temperatures are slightly warmer.  The least number flowering (2 species) were recorded in the Outer Hebrides and Central Wales.  Amongst the interesting records were a first record of Round-leaved Crane’s-bill in Leicester, and a second record of Musk Stork’s-bill in Lincolnshire. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

What do taxonomists do? 

Bust of Linnaeus presiding over Herbarium, Univ. Reading
Image: C. Metherell
Thanks to BSBI member and Blogger extraordinaire Jonathan Mitchley for spotting this excellent video by Dr Sandy Knapp of the Natural History Museum. Called 'Understanding Plant Diversity', Dr Knapp talks for almost an hour about taxonomy, phylogenetics, plant ID and why herbaria are so important, illustrating her talk with slides - some show herbarium specimens collected by Linnaeus and Joseph Banks.

She tells us about her work on the Potato Family Solanaceae and talks about discovering and describing new species. She tackles questions like - what is a species? Her working definition is: "a hypothesis about the distribution of variation in nature". Finally, she answers the question - why are we bothering with all this? 

Click here to watch the video and please let me know if you've spotted any other good videos about botany - leave a comment below or email me, louise.marsh@bsbi.org 

Field Meetings 2014. 

BSBI field meeting 2012 at Rutland Water VC55
Image: M. Crittenden
Diaries out: this year's Field Meetings Programme has just been published - click here to see what is on offer. 

We have flagged up meetings aimed at different interests and skill levels, so look out for the relevant symbols. Meetings marked G (general) or T (training) are particularly suitable for beginners - and a few are designed to offer an introduction to field ID for absolute beginners.

Looking for diagnostic characters
Image: M. Crittenden
As always, our meetings are aimed primarily at members, and are probably the main reason that people join the BSBI, but non-members are also welcome to attend if there is space once our members have booked.

If you are a non-member, please let the meeting organiser know and you will be put on the waiting list and will be invited to attend if there is space.

Hope to see you at a field meeting this year - and please send photos for the Blog so I don't have to keep recycling the same ones! 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Anniversaries and hopes for the future. 

On 2nd January 1944, a thirteen-year old school-leaver called Peter Sell started work at the Herbarium at the University of Cambridge and embarked upon a lifetime in botany that gave us publications like "Sell & Murrell". 
Herbarium volunteers, Univ. Leicester
Image: L. Marsh

Sadly, Peter died in October 2013 before he could complete a full seven decades at the Herbarium. So, as well as raising a glass to Peter's memory today, how about we try to "complete" those days for him? 

Peter Sell is, of course, irreplaceable, but even relatively inexperienced botanists can make a virtual contribution to herbarium curation with Herbaria@Home. This is a good way to get started, and you can also browse collectors, check what they saw in your area - some records go back over centuries - and find out why herbaria are so important to botanists. 


Chris Metherell in the Herbarium, Univ. Reading
Image: A. Culham (?)
Next step would be to give up one day this month to help out in your nearest herbarium, mounting specimens, printing labels or typing in data. We could soon make a difference to the backlog of herbarium specimens! 

If herbaria really don't appeal, there are lots of other ways to get involved with botany this year. Recording what's in flower for the New Year's Plant Hunt would be a great way to get started - and to raise a metaphorical glass to Peter Sell (1931-2013).

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

BSBI Highlights 2013. 

Skim through our archive to see what BSBI got up to in 2013. Highlights include:


And the biggest highlight of all is... the contributions of all BSBI's county recorders, referees and "ordinary members" across Britain and Ireland. 

Congratulations to all our members who helped make 2013 such a great year for the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland! 

Now, what shall we do in 2014?