Wednesday 11 December 2013

Batemania breaks out: BSBI botanist in the spotlight.

Classic habitats of the Azorean Platanthera species
Image: P. Rudall
Great to see Prof Richard Bateman all over the media in the past 24 hours, having rediscovered what may be Europe's rarest orchid.

Richard, based at Kew, is our most popular* New Journal of Botany author and - along with BSBI President Ian Denholm - one of BSBI's Orchid Referees.  
A report on the BBC website, 'Europe's rarest orchid rediscovered in the Azores' tells how Richard, Paula and Monica went out expecting to find two species of Butterfly-orchid Platanthera rather than one and actually found three species!  

Their paper, which is causing such international interest, is published in the open-access journal PeerJ, so we can all read it free of charge. The title is 'Systematic revision of Platanthera in the Azorean archipelago: not one but three species, including arguably Europe's rarest orchid'. 

Prof Richard Bateman
Image: P. Rudall
Richard says,"I was even more astonished when my subsequent studies in herbaria and libraries showed that this exceptional rare orchid, found only on one mountain-top on a single Azorean island, had in fact been found by the very first serious botanist to visit the Azores, in 1838." 

He added, "It is a welcome bonus that the overlooked species has proven to be so informative about how evolution takes place."

Although journalists and  broadcasters have been beating down Richard's door for an interview, he responded to my congratulatory email with typical modesty and focused instead on conservation and the hope that "the current media frenzy may bring the appallingly threatened Azorean flora some genuine benefits".

You can read more about Richard's work here and here, and you'll be glad to know that when I sidled up to him after the recent AEM and asked if we might have another submission for NJB... well, he's thinking about it, so fingers crossed! 

Richard and Ian orchid-hunting in Ireland
And in the meantime, any BSBI member who has lent out their back-copies of New Journal of Botany (you don't really expect to get them back, do you?) can log in now and re-read all Richard's orchid papers in NJB. Email Alex if you can't remember your password. 

If you're not a member - well, receiving three glossy print copies each year of NJB, and on-line access whenever you like, is one of the perks of BSBI membership. So if you want to read more than the abstract of Richard's Platanthera paper for NJB, you'll just have to join BSBI. And why not? Prof Bateman joined and look at him now ;-) 

* based on number of downloads, not just because we like him!

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