Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Message from BSBI President John Faulkner

BSBI President John Faulkner sends Christmas greetings to all botanists:

Fraser Fir Abies fraseri
Image courtesy of Matt Parratt, Forest Research 

“Many years ago, I dreamed of setting up a small side-line business to grow and sell berried holly. I’m glad I didn’t. Even in retirement, December is busy enough without the additional pressure it would have brought on us. As it is, the birds regularly descend on our crop of holly berries on about the 10th December. Maybe this is when the hordes of blackbirds and fieldfares invade from NE Europe? This year, we would have had no berries left had it not been for Gillian’s foresight in covering a few sprays with polythene bags. The bags acted as local bird-scarers and any berries within about 1 metre of them were left alone. So we will, after all, have holly with which to decorate the house before the second invasion (i.e. the family) arrives from the east.

“We also have a Christmas tree, which is a Fraser Fir. I’m told this is the favoured Christmas tree in the White House. It is a local species there, being a native of the Appalachians. We have no local native conifers here in Ireland. The “nearest” would be a Scots Pine, but it does not have an ideal form for decorating. Fraser Firs are dense and quite narrow with soft blunt needles." [LM: find out here about the tree John chose last year and how to ID it!]

Field Meeting at Drumnaph NR, Co. Derry, 2016
John on right.
Image: Donna Rainey

“Had it not been for the label, I doubt whether I would have been able to identify our Fraser Fir. Like many other plant genera, the fir genus Abies is a large one with relatively small differences between the species. It is very difficult to teach yourself from books alone how to identify groups like this. Much more satisfactory is learning under the guidance of experts. 

"One of BSBI’s great strengths is that it gives you the opportunity to learn from expert botanists. During last year, experienced and expert BSBI members devised and ran innumerable formal and less formal training courses, led hundreds of outings, and identified thousands of difficult specimens.  A big “thank you” to all those who made this possible! In an age when expertise is often undervalued and occasionally derided, we are not only grateful but also very proud of you all.


John (centre) at a meeting in 2016
 of BSBI's Publications Committee
Image: Louise Marsh
“BSBI’s main project right now is Atlas 2020. In preparation, we are compiling a comprehensive and up-to-date record of plant occurrence throughout Britain and Ireland. With three years to go, the BSBI Distribution Database now has some 46 million plant records. Botanists in every corner of the land from Shetland to Cork and Anglesey to Kent have been out recording in droves to ensure that this project is a success. This is already a huge achievement, and all of you who have taken part deserve congratulations for the enormous effort you have put in. There are still three years to go, and coverage remains somewhat patchy, especially in remoter areas, so please keep up the great work!

John and botanists at Whitepark Bay
BSBI Summer Meeting 2015
Image: L. Marsh
“Nearly all of BSBI’s recording and outreach is done voluntarily, and particular thanks go to more than 100 expert plant referees and almost 200 County Recorders without whose support and expertise the Society could not function. We also have a small and hard-working staff who, with help from the Officers, Trustees and Committees, maintain the organisation and its programme of meetings, produce its publications, look after its finances and keep it moving forward. 

I would like to reassure all of you that, even if your work is sometimes invisible, it is always valuable, and always appreciated.  The Society as a whole is very grateful for – and sometimes amazed by – your dedication and the huge contribution you make.

“Whatever your role in BSBI (if any), and whether you are invading or being invaded, I send you very best wishes for a happy Christmas, and for good botanising in the New Year”.