Wednesday 3 July 2024

Pseudonyms and the BSBI Distribution Database

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera
submitted on iNaturalist by 'hemipepsis'  
In this blogpost, BSBI Countries Manager James Harding-Morris sheds light on the issue of botanical recorders using pseudonyms Over to James:

"In the past, BSBI's County Recorders (VCRs) would largely receive records from a known network of individuals allowing a fine-tuned understanding of their botanical abilities. With the growth in recording technology (such as iRecord) this has allowed any enthusiast to generate biological records for any taxa. This increase in accessibility has allowed a broader range of people to take part in recording, but means that our approaches to working with this data need to evolve.

We are all familiar with the rule that a biological record is composed of four key parts; the Who, What, When and Where. When working with data from certain sources, however, some records are submitted under a pseudonym. This has led to some discussion around the treatment of pseudonyms on the BSBI’s Distribution Database (the DDb). To help VCRs make decisions on what data they chose to move into the DDb, we have drawn together some information into this blog post.

Sources of records with pseudonyms

Great Forget-me-not
Brunnera macrophylla

 
Pseudonymous records are most likely to be encountered when working with data submitted by the general public through iNaturalist and, to a lesser extent, iRecord. These records enter a separate holding pen on the DDb after a transfer and can be moved into the live DDb at VCR discretion. See full guidance on that process here.

To take "my" vice-county North Lincolnshire (VC54) as an example, the vast majority of records submitted via iRecord have been submitted with full, personal names. With iNaturalist, the incidence of pseudonyms is higher - perhaps 10% of records. These proportions may and probably will vary from county to county, but in my experience the records I have received from pseudonymous users are no less serious or valuable than those from people who appear to be using legal names. For example, the record I received of Brunnera macrophylla (on left) submitted on iNaturalist by 'giles63' - this is an unusual alien for VC54. 

A benefit of iNaturalist is that nearly all records will have an associated image, allowing the identification to be confirmed. Pseudonyms are also stable and unique - as in, a person will be associated with an unchanging name - and can allow development of a long-term perspective of a recorder’s ability.

Why do people use pseudonyms?

People may use pseudonyms online for a number of reasons:

Trailing Bellflower
Campanula poscharskyana
submitted on iNaturalist by 'biomel'

Internet safety: Young people, when first learning about internet safety, are told not to share personal identity data online. There are now generations of people who have grown up with this advice, making online pseudonyms second nature.

Uniqueness: Pseudonyms are unique. When registering for an online account, you can’t have the same name as someone else, which can compel people to use something other than their legal name. There is value in this, as pseudonyms tend to be stable and unique, unlike real names. Matt Harding, BSBI Scotland Officer, recently pointed out that there are a number of records on the DDb for ‘M. Harding,’ not all of which are his.

Protection of vulnerable people: Pseudonyms can protect the identities of vulnerable individuals or those responsible for them, who may not want to disclose their real names for personal or safeguarding reasons. This is something to be aware of when considering the use of pseudonyms in a public-facing forum such as iRecord or iNaturalist, where anyone with an account can see the names (or pseudonyms) of other recorders.

What are the risks of ignoring pseudonymous records?

The risk of trying to identify pseudonyms is that some people simply have names that might look like pseudonyms - Monte-Carlo, Dreamy, Alloy, Costly, Arwen and Eowyn could appear as unlikely real names but were all given to children in 2023. Conversely, the name Colin Robinson could appear a perfectly reasonable name but may actually be the pseudonym of a What We Do In the Shadows fan. Ignoring records with (perceived) pseudonyms runs the risk of accidentally excluding records from genuine recorders with unique or unusual names.

Colin Robinson (on right) alongside
 his other vampire companions 

Another risk is that valuable plant records could be missed. By simply discounting records on the basis of a pseudonym then unusual or exciting records could be eliminated before consideration.

Final points

Feedback mechanism: Working with records in the DDb holding pen does not (yet) allow feedback to the users of iRecord. However, if you or a member of your VCR team verify records within iRecord itself, there is an opportunity to exchange messages with users, which could include asking whether they’d be happy to provide a legal name - which they often are! Of course, given some of the reasons mentioned above, a few people may have a good rationale for remaining pseudonymous.

Support for record verification: If you would like to start verifying records in iRecord for your VC, or would like to find someone else to support you by verifying records, then please contact your Country Officer or email me, James Harding-Morris, who will support you in getting set up.

VCR discretion: VCRs have final say on which records enter the live DDb for their vice-county and hopefully this blogpost will support VCRs with that decision making process. That said, no records should be rejected on the basis of a pseudonym, and instead should be left in the ‘holding pen’ and not moved to the live DDb.

Friday 21 June 2024

British & Irish Botany: issue 6.1 published

Dr Stuart Desjardins
We have just published the latest issue of British & Irish Botany, the BSBI's online, Open Access scientific journal. It's been six months since our previous issue, the final one with Ian Denholm at the helm as Editor-in-Chief. Work has been going on behind the scenes in recent months as Ian handed over to his successor, Dr Stuart Desjardins, an Early Career Fellow in Plant Biology at the University of Leicester. Stuart's research interests include plant molecular phylogenetics and taxonomy, as well as evolutionary processes such as speciation and hybridisation.

This new issue of the journal, with Stuart as Editor-in-Chief, features six papers which we are confident will be of interest to botanists across Britain and Ireland. 

First up is a paper by David Green (BSBI County Recorder for North Wiltshire from 1982 to 2003) describing the Wynd Cliff whitebeam; a new species of Aria (formerly Sorbus subg. Aria) endemic to the Wye Valley, Wales. Next is an account by Andy Amphlett, joint BSBI County Recorder for Easterness, of the tree and scrub species of the treeline ecotone in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. Andy discusses the 36 species which occur in the Park at >500 m altitude, compares them with the 'birch belt' species found in Norway, and considers the implications for conservation management. If you enjoyed Sarah Watts' recent paper in British & Irish Botany on 'High mountain trees: altitudinal records recently broken for 11 different tree species in Britain' and have been following David Pearman's work on altitudinal data, then this paper is for you. 

Wynd Cliff Whitebeam
Image: D. Green

Next up we have a paper by Dr Tim Rich describing two new hybrid species of scurvygrass Cochlearia; Tim has named one of them Cochlearia x stacei in honour of Prof Clive Stace, "for his authoritative work on the British and Irish floras for the last 50 years". Tim is a frequent contributor to our journal, an Honorary Member of BSBI and earlier this year he became the second recipient of the BSBI Award for Outstanding Contribution to British and Irish botany. 

The fourth contribution is from Jim Bevan, whose detailed account clarifies the occurrence of a lesser-known species of hawkweed Hieracium gothicum in Britain. As you will be able to tell from the paper, H. gothicum has clearly been a much-confused taxon, but Jim’s meticulous work has shed light on this almost forgotten species and adds to the already considerable BSBI resources on hawkweeds.

Salix lapponum at Drumochter Pass
Image: A. Amphlett

One of the roles of British & Irish Botany is to provide an outlet for British botanists to make taxonomic revisions and to update plant nomenclature, and a perfect example of this is included in the current issue: a short, but necessary, validation of three of P.D. Sell’s Hieracium binomials from Sell & Murrell’s Flora of Great Britain and Ireland, prepared by Dr Tim Rich and Jim Crossley.

While British & Irish Botany's main aim is to provide a forum for publishing papers and articles relating to the vascular plants and charophytes of Britain and Ireland, including descriptions of new taxa, we also cover historic botany. So we are delighted to publish a paper by Frank Horsman about the Westminster Physic Garden - which attracted many 17th century botanists such as John Ray, aka the 'father of English natural history', John Tradescant who introduced magnolias and asters to English gardens, and John Evelyn, whose Sylva is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential books on forestry ever published, as well as eminent visitors such as diarist Samuel Pepys - but about whose precise location there has long speculation. Frank's deep dive into historic literature sources has yielded a likely site for the Garden, and follows on from his previous paper for us on the C17th botanists Edward Morgan and Edward Lhwyd.

Many thanks to Stuart and congratulations on his first issue as Editor-in-Chief! We already have seven papers in the pipeline for issue 6.2, coming to you in the autumn, and we are always keen to hear from any botanists interested in submitting a manuscript. Here are the subject areas we cover and here are the submission guidelines, or you can email Stuart if you'd rather have an informal chat before submitting. But for now, grab a cuppa, make sure you're sitting comfortably, and then you can start enjoying this latest issue of British & Irish Botany.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Interview with BSBI President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington: Part One


BSBI President Micheline Sheehy Skeffington
BSBI has welcomed female members since its inception in 1836, although this hasn’t always been reflected in the choice of President – there have only been three women Presidents so far: Mary Briggs, from 1998 to 2000; Lynne Farrell, from 2019 to 2022 – here is the interview with Lynne, whose monthly blogposts helped botanists stay in touch while we couldn’t meet in person because of the lockdowns; and then in November 2022, Lynne handed over to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.

Micheline is both the third female BSBI President and the second from the Republic of Ireland (David Webb was the first, from 1989 to 1991). At the 2023 British & Irish Botanical Conference, Micheline delivered the keynote presentation on ‘Ireland’s Lusitanian Flora – mining, smuggling, pilgrimages and the Ericaceae’. If you were unable to attend the Conference, you can watch this video of Micheline’s presentation.

Micheline's presentation at the
2023 British & Irish Botanical Conference
Image: J. Common 

I caught up with Micheline to find out more about her back story and to hear what she’s been up to in her first year at the helm of the leading botanical society in Britain and Ireland. Here is the first instalment of my interview with our President.

LM: So Micheline, before you tell us about your Presidency, could we go right back to the beginning and ask how you first got interested in botany – has it been a lifelong passion? How did you get started?

MSS: Well I grew up in a converted gardener’s cottage and garden behind a big house and grounds. So as kids, myself and my brothers were always sent outdoors, where we climbed trees and explored hidden corners. I always retained that enjoyment of being outdoors. We were also members of the Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club and would go on outings exploring the habitats, flora and fauna of County Dublin.

LM: That sounds like the ideal childhood for a future BSBI President! How about indoors, at school and later at university?

Micheline in a tree after canoeing on Lough Derg
Image: N. Scott

MSS: Yes, I enjoyed science in school and studied Natural Science in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), where I was lucky to be able to study Geography/ Geology, as well as Botany and Zoology. In the final years, Botany seemed to offer the more interesting courses, so I chose that as my main subject. My fourth-year project was on the contribution of the lichen Peltigera polydactyla to sand dune nitrogen budgets on N Bull Island, Dublin Bay.

In my final year, I became interested in studying in France, since my mother was French. I won a bursary and spent a year in Montpellier studying plant ecology and living for a while in the Camargue, working on lagoonal flora alongside the flamingos. With friends, I explored the countryside around Montpellier and learned the local flora -and birdlife. At some point, I realised I wanted to do more for conservation and that I probably needed a PhD for that. So, I returned to TCD to take up my last years as a TCD Scholar and continued my interest in coastal systems with the study of nitrogen budgets in salt marsh plants, publishing several papers and enjoying giving talks at conferences.

LM: Ok so that’s you back in Ireland, studying and you mentioned the legendary Dublin Naturalists’ Field Club earlier – so did you get involved with them again?

Screenshot of a
Dublin Naturalists' Field Club
walkabout, inner north Dublin, 1981:
as reported in the Irish Times 
MSS: Yes, when I returned from Montpellier in autumn 1977, I met up with some Field Club members who encouraged me to join their committee, which I did. Not long after, while planning future field excursions, we realised that the on-going petrol crisis could seriously affect our ability to travel outside the city. Maura Scannell, Head of the National Herbarium at Glasnevin, suggested we work on the flora of inner Dublin. This caught our imagination and a small group came together, dividing the inner city, conveniently bounded by its two canals, into 14 districts overseen by a range of botanists, notably Jonathan Shackleton, a classmate of mine in TCD and later one-time County Recorder for Cavan; Peter Wyse Jackson, now President of the Missouri Botanical Garden; John Parnell, TCD lecturer in plant taxonomy; and contributions from Maura Scannell, Paddy Reilly, Declan Doogue, John Akeroyd and many more. It was great fun and eventually Peter and I put all the data together and the Flora of Inner Dublin was published in 1984. I’ve never lost my interest in ruderals and wasteland since those heady days when the latter were a blight on Dublin’s streetscape for all but us keen botanists.

Micheline plant recording in
Connemara National Park,
September 2016
LM: Ah that explains why you are always so great at flying the flag for urban botany and the so-called weeds that turn up on our city streets! So, you were out with the Field Club members, publishing the Flora, still working towards your PhD… were you also job-hunting?

MSS: As postgrads, we regularly scoured the pages of the New Scientist for jobs and, having travelled throughout Europe on interrail, I was keen to explore even wider, applying for jobs inter alia in Wales, Mauritania and Zambia, as well as in Ireland. Incredibly, in 1980, I landed a lectureship in plant ecology in the Botany Department of then-named University College Galway (UCG). Luckily, academia was less pressurised then and I spent two summers analysing my data and writing up my PhD, awarded in early 1983. The next week I was taking my colleague Michael O’Connell’s palaeoecology and bryology courses as well as mine, while he took a year’s sabbatical! On his return, I promptly handed him my lecture notes and took up my side of the exchange, choosing to go to Indonesia for a year. I was very lucky to be able to do this, as neither of us had to raise funds for our respective sabbaticals.

Having attended famous French tropical botanist Francis Hallé’s lectures in Montpellier, I was bitten by the bug to see tropical rainforest first-hand. Based in the SE Asian Regional Centre for Tropical Biology in Bogor, Java, I chose to work on the programme to find sustainable ways of using the rattan Calamus manan, prized for its high-quality cane for furniture. This took me with the team to Kalimantan in Borneo and to Sumatra, learning even then of the tragic destruction of the rainforest by timber loggers. Tropical rainforest is an incredibly rich, fascinating and valuable habitat. The clearing out of the rattan vine by local villagers was but a small part of that destruction. On returning to Ireland in 1985, I vowed to raise awareness as best I could about our role in the west in using unsustainable tropical timbers. Sadly now, the ubiquitous palm oil is playing equal havoc, with seas of oil palms replacing the diverse canopies of the rainforest. 

LM: It certainly is. For any readers who aren’t up to speed with how palm oil is contributing to deforestation, this page on the World Wildlife Fund website will be very useful. 

Micheline, you’ve had such a fascinating life in botany and conservation, and travelled so widely! Here we are still in 1985, you’re back in Ireland, a passionate conservationist and there’s a huge but ultimately successful struggle ahead of you – one so important that you recently published a book all about it! Let’s pause here and pick up on the next instalment in a few days – watch this space, readers!

Monday 1 January 2024

New Year Plant Hunt 2024: Day Three

Hello plant hunters, James Harding-Morris here, BSBI Countries Support Manager, taking over from Louise who's been out leading a group hunt in her vice-county today. Here's the list of 36 species they found in bloom.

My impression of day three is that we’ve generally had better weather than on Days One and Two. Certainly, Sarah Watts was greeted by flowering Gorse, blue skies and a rainbow at the head of Loch Tay on her New Year Plant Hunt (image on right). 

Here in Lincolnshire I had blue skies (with a cold wind) as I explored the banks of the Humber estuary. If you saw my post about Ox-eye Daisies from a few weeks ago then I can confirm that they were still in flower today (if looking a little worse for wear).

It just goes to show that going for a recce ahead of your Hunt can pay dividends. Oisín had a quick look today and spotted six species in flower ahead of their walk tomorrow, and Stuart found four – all of which were non-native naturalised shrubs. Does this tell us something interesting about the types of plants seen in flower at this time of year?

It’s been great to see brand new botanists taking part in the Hunt. Lucy Jones took part for the first time (image on left) and found a great spread of New Year Plant Hunt favourites, plus an early Daffodil.

Podling also took part for the first time and recorded a whopping 19 species including, from what I can see on this beautiful photo collage, several species that I didn’t manage to find today!

Speaking of firsts, our CEO Julia Hanmer took part in her first group hunt, organised by the Gloucestershire Natural History Society. They found an astounding 42 species in flower which must say something about the value of a lot of keen eyes. Image on right taken by Julia.

Some solo Hunts racked up big numbers. Alex Prendergast found 34 species flowering in Norfolk, including a currently unnamed elm taxon. Jon Holt reached 40 species around Bicester which feature a very showy Musk Mallow. Steve Coates got to the heady heights of 52 species in Kent, including the marvellous Toothed Medick. However, in terms of pace, perhaps Mandy Forde’s 28 species in 20 minutes by Bangor Pier is a record count?

I always enjoy hearing about the oddities still in flower. I wouldn’t have expected Harebell to be hanging on in London, or Fine-leaved Sandwort in Cambridge. However, I’m always the most impressed (and a little envious!) when someone manages to find something on their New Year Plant Hunt that I’ve never seen, like Sarah Lambert’s Crimson Flax in Peterborough. Beautiful! Image on left.

As I’m writing this – around 8.30pm on the 1st January – the number of lists we’ve had submitted has skyrocketed to over 1400 and the number of species seen in flower has shot-up to 579. We look to be on track for our biggest New Year Plant Hunt ever, so if you haven’t taken part yet, or submitted your records yet, please do! Info and links here in case you need them.

All the best to anyone out hunting tomorrow on our final day.

Sunday 31 December 2023

New Year Plant Hunt 2024: Day Two

The second day of the New Year Plant Hunt dawned and it was still miserable weather for many of us. But there were group hunts planned in many locations; a glance at the Results board this morning showed that only c300 species had been recorded on Day One, so there was obviously more to find; and botanists are a hardy bunch so.... a-hunting we went!

Botanising with friends and family, or in organised groups, is always a real theme of the Hunt and today was no exception. Michael Jones' 8-month old daughter was wrapped up warmly and (judging by the image on right taken by Michael) seems to have really enjoyed using our spotter sheet of Top 20 plants to check what to look for during the Hunt! The spotter sheets were new this year and first-time plant hunters of all ages have found them very useful.

On the Results page, where you'll find the list of most frequently recorded plants (the ones we used when compiling the spotter sheets), a new feature for this year is that our IT wizard Tom Humphrey has put little arrows in to show whether a species is being recorded in bloom more or less frequently than last year. So it looks as though Hazel, Winter Heliotrope and White Dead-nettle are going 'up the charts' but Red Dead-nettle, Shepherd's-purse and Hogweed are going down. Is that what you're finding in your area? Daisy retains it's supreme position as number one on the list. 

So who else was out hunting with friends and family? In Co. Cork, the Glengarriff team notched up 35 species in bloom, more than the Sligo team yesterday - but Sligo botanists had a rainbow for compensation! The Cornish botanists had a great day out in Mevagissey today and found 76 species in bloom. Their list is here, at the top of the list of longest lists (for now!) Fewer species to be found up in in Newcastle, where James Common was out again - it's only Day Two but he was on his third Hunt, this time with partner Matt and they found musk mallow blooming by a bus stop (image on left). Urban and suburban habitats like this often yield the most interesting plant finds.   

Community is an important part of botanising - to enjoy great company and also for sharing ID tips. In Hertfordshire, the Grow Community - Sopwell team (image on right) enjoyed botanising together on their group hunt. There are still quite a few group hunts scheduled for the next two days so do check them out if you'd like some company on your hunt.  

But many of us also enjoy a solo Hunt - a bit of quiet time to recharge our batteries. In Lancashire, Rose Edmondson did her first ever New Year Plant Hunt, inspired by Leif Bersweden's book and armed with the Top 20 spotter sheet

Neil Forbes was out in Arnside and found Spring Sandwort (image below left). With a handlens, he could see anthers sticking out so that counted as 'flowering' and was therefore eligible for the Hunt. Neil also noticed the impact of both microclimate and proximity to the coast on the abundance and status (native or non-native) of the species blooming in the various locations he visited. 

Southern locations tend to have more species in bloom - for example, Kate Gold found 31 species in bloom in East Sussex yesterday, following the same route she's been going since 2016 - whereas further north today, Margaret Cahill in Offaly and Joanie McNaughton in Edinburgh both found slimmer pickings. 

But understanding more about which wild and naturalised plants manage to bloom where, and how this correlates with autumn and winter weather patterns, is what makes the New Year Plant Hunt so interesting. So well done to those northern plant hunters who braved the cold and went out to see what they could find in bloom. 

By 10pm, when we had just about reached the halfway point of this year's Hunt, the Results board showed that plant hunters had uploaded details of more than 700 surveys and the total number of species recorded in bloom had risen to 439. Great work everyone!

What will tomorrow bring? I'm leading a hunt around a Leicester industrial estate in the afternoon and look forward to seeing how our count compares with previous years at the same location. My colleague James Harding-Morris, the mastermind behind those great spotter sheets, will be here in the evening to summarise Day Three findings for you. 

Happy hunting and fingers crossed for decent weather!

Saturday 30 December 2023

New Year Plant Hunt 2024: Day One


Our thirteenth New Year Plant Hunt kicked off today and at just a few minutes past midnight, the first record pinged in: the inimitable Ger Scollard recorded Ivy-leaved Toadflax in southwest Ireland by flashlight and that became the first record to light up our interactive results map

Last year Ger did the same thing but with Red Dead-nettle. There's no stopping this man! 

Most other people waited until the sun was up and then the records started to flood in, despite wet and windy weather in many places. 

James Common led fellow Tyneside botanists on two Hunts, one in "soggy" Tynemouth (image above right) and one in Heaton where, he tells us, it rained again. But James was undaunted and at least he didn't have to endure the heavy snow which prevented Sarah Watts from going out hunting! 

Charlotte Rankin also braved unpleasant weather in Carlisle to notch up 20 species including Narrow-leaved Ragwort (image on left) which, as Plant Atlas 2020 tells us, is a naturalised South African species which is spreading rapidly, especially in England and in the Dublin area. 

This is the first New Year Plant Hunt since the publication of Plant Atlas 2020 so plant hunters have been able to access up-to-date information about the plants they are seeing and any trends driving changes in distribution, e.g. climate change, habitat loss etc. 

Plant Atlas 2020 is such a great resource and so are the summary reports for Britain and for Ireland

The weather didn't look too bad for Tim Rich who, with Sarah Whild, carried out the very first New Year Plant Hunt over a decade ago. 

Little did they know that their 'hmm I wonder what we'll find in bloom around here at New Year' would turn into a citizen science activity that attracts thousands of people across Britain and Ireland! 

This year Tim, one of Britain's top botanists, was out hunting in Cardiff with Julian Woodman, one of the
East Glamorgan County Recorders. They notched up 54 species between them, including Bulbous Buttercup (image on right) and you can see their list here

As the day went on, records pinged in from locations across Britain and Ireland. In Chandler's Ford in Hampshire, Tristan Norton, Martin Rand & co found Jersey Cudweed (image on left showing it in characteristic habitat between paving stones). Jersey Cudweed is another species that Plant Atlas 2020 suggests is spreading northwards, perhaps due to climate change.
 
On the Kintyre peninsula there were five species in bloom, including Herb-Robert which, surprisingly, proved elusive further south, while in Castlegregory in County Kerry, Olly Lynch and Hannah Mulcahy found 24 species in bloom, including a rather nice Valerianella corn-salad (image below right). 

The habitats that our intrepid plant hunters visited in their search for wildflowers ranged from a wall in Northamptonshire, where Brian Laney, Alyson Freeman and their team found Annual Mercury, to a drainpipe in Uckfield, Sussex, where Plant Hunt regular Wendy Tagg spotted Yellow Corydalis in bloom, to school grounds in Worcestershire, where the fabulous BHA Potting Sheds team recorded 21 species in bloom including the lovely but diminutive whitlow-grass (image below left). 

Those tiny white members of the Cabbage family can be tricky to ID but fortunately there is an excellent cribsheet by the amazing Moira (aka Nature Lark) to help you - it's free to download here

Of course some of the longest lists came from southern and coastal areas: 67 species in Alderney, 64 species spotted by Jo and her team in Cromer. Jo had no sooner got back from her Cromer Hunt than she was on the Support Desk and on social media (Twitter and Bluesky) helping with plant ID - there's dedication for you! 

But as ecologist Joni Cook, volunteering on the Support Desk for the first time this year, quite rightly pointed out, the New Year Plant Hunt isn't just about longest lists: we are also keen to hear if you hunted but found absolutely nothing. 

It all helps us build up a clearer picture of how wild and naturalised plants across Britain and Ireland are responding to a changing climate. 

So, on to Day Two of the Hunt - we can't wait to hear how you get on and the Support Team is ready to help if you run into any problems! Goodnight, we'll leave you with this lovely little whitlow-grass.

Thursday 28 December 2023

British & Irish Botany: issue 5.3 published

Ian browsing a copy of 'Stace'
Image: L. Marsh
It's been six months since we published the last issue of British & Irish Botany, the Botanical Society's online, Open Access scientific journal. We are about to press publish on another issue and this one marks a milestone in the journal's history: this will be the final issue under the editorship of Ian Denholm.

Ian took over the editorship of British & Irish Botany's predecessor, New Journal of Botany, in 2015, just weeks after his term as BSBI President ended; he oversaw the setting up of British & Irish Botany and has been at the helm for the last five years. So this really is the end of an era! 

Don't worry about the future of the journal - Ian has overseen the succession plans and we'll be announcing the new Editor-in-Chief very soon - but for now, I'd like to hand over to Ian to tell you about what's in this latest issue of British & Irish Botany:

"Publication of Issue 5(3) of British & Irish Botany (B&IB) completes the fifth year of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland's online scientific journal. Over this period there have been 18 issues containing 136 papers covering the taxonomy, history, origins, ecology and conservation of the British and Irish flora. The appearance of each issue has traditionally been accompanied by a blogpost from Louise Marsh summarising the contents and highlighting findings of particular significance. On this occasion, in light of my retirement as editor-in-chief, she has graciously stepped aside and delegated this task to me!

Hieracium elizabethae-reginae
Image: T. Rich
"We commence with a paper from Tim Rich, one of B&IB’s most prolific contributors, who with co-author James Warren adds a new endemic species of hawkweed (Hieracium) to the British flora. The significance of this development is heightened by the taxon being named in honour of our late Queen Elizabeth II. Careful reading of the paper will disclose the connection! Anyone who was an active botanist in the ‘pre-Stace’ era will no doubt retain great affection for the preceding Flora of the British Isles by Clapham, Tutin and Warburg (CTW). A paper by David Wilkinson and Laura Jean Cameron centres on a lunch held to launch the first edition of CTW in 1952. They speculate on the identity of the person caricatured on the cover of the lunch menu, and provide a fascinating image of the menu itself signed by most of the botanical illuminati of the day.

"Ridha El Mokni and Duilio Iamonico explore aspects of nomenclature within the genus Gypsophila which, although not native to Britain and Ireland, contains several species that have been reported as garden escapes or casuals from other sources, and may become more frequent under changing climatic conditions. Frank Horsman investigates in detail the contributions of the 17th century botanist Edward Morgan, to knowledge of the Welsh flora in particular. Morgan emerges from this account as something of an unsung hero whose work and influence on contemporaries deserves much more recognition and respect than it is presently accorded.

Artemisia campestris subsp. maritima
Image: J. Twibell


"The theme of Welsh plants extends through the remaining two papers in the issue. Field Wormwood (Artemisia campestris) is a rare, iconic and native component of the Breckland flora, but also grows as a distinct subspecies (maritima) on the Sefton coast in Lancashire and at Crymlin Burrows in South Wales. Andy Jones and Fred Rumsey review evidence from various sources that collectively tip the balance in favour of maritima plants being recent arrivals on our shores, in direct contrast to their Breckland counterparts. 

"Fred Rumsey (again!) and Chris Thorogood (authors of the BSBI Broomrapes Handbook) detail the history, distribution and ecology of Picris Broomrape, Orobanche picridis. This has proved a challenging taxon due to nomenclatural confusion and morphological similarity to Common Broomrape, Orobanche minor. Most botanists to date (including me) have sought it on chalk in east Kent and on the Isle of Wight. While confirming its continued presence at these locations, the authors also report the discovery of a huge newly-discovered (and presumably previously overlooked) colony on private land in South Wales.

Orobanche picridis
Images: C. Thorogood
& F. Rumsey

"Editing the journal for five years has been a fair commitment of time, but also rewarding in that I have learned a great deal from the contents of papers and have enjoyed stimulating and productive interactions with authors. I thank Louise Marsh for exceptional editorial assistance, Jonathan Shanklin for meticulous proof-reading, and all who have supported the journal by reviewing manuscripts and contributing papers. May British & Irish Botany continue to thrive under new management!"

Huge thanks to Ian for all he has done to establish British & Irish Botany - it has been a delight to assist him! 

I hope he will enjoy having more time for all his other botanical interests, including being BSBI's joint County Recorder for Hertfordshire, BSBI's joint referee for orchids, sitting on BSBI's Science & Data Committee.... he's not so much retiring as re-calibrating! 

So it just remains for me to point you to the latest issue of British & Irish Botany and say "watch this space" for news about Ian's handover to his successor.