"What can botanists do in those chill, damp, days at the end of winter when they are just twitching to find something in flower – how about a herbarium visit?
"On 16th February, 18 members of the Litchfield Botanical Society visited the herbarium at the Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent for a tour and talk about herbaria and their uses.
"After coffee and a chat we first had a look at the lab and talked about specimen preparation and some of their scientific uses as well as just permanent biological records and ID aids.
"Then over to the natural history store in the basement where the herbarium is housed – there to look at a few specimens, including a recently found mid-19thC Cypripedium specimen from Cumbria and some Rubus type specimens – leading naturally to a discussion on the values (or otherwise) of collecting and the role of herbaria in taxonomy.
"Herbaria don’t just contain dried plant material and we looked at spirit based specimens and also documentary material – records, catalogues and botanical correspondence and ephemera to round out our knowledge of local plants.
"Finally a number of the visitors were keen to look at some of the less “obvious” members of the Asteraceae (image on left) – both for their own benefit and to photograph for a training session for beginners at the club".