Sunday, 10 December 2017

Genebank55: conserving plant species at local level

Packed exhibition hall at BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2017
The Genebank55 poster is on the left.
Image: J.  Mitchley 
For anyone who was unable to attend the recent BSBI Exhibition Meeting, we are starting to upload some of the 38 exhibits to this page and have invited exhibitors to tell us a bit more about their projects, latest books, interesting plant finds etc.

First up is a poster by Anna Farrell and Richard Gornall (University of Leicester Botanic Garden) about Genebank55, an initiative to conserve the seeds of locally threatened plants with a view to re-introducing them at some point in the future into suitable local receptor sites. 

Richard said: "We have been losing plant species from our two counties, Leicestershire and Rutland (VC55) at an average rate of 1.5 per year. Some are down to a few individuals. One conservation approach is to take seeds of threatened species into the protective custody of a genebank. This allows the storage of large numbers of individuals from different local populations. 

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem
Image: Pete Stroh
"This is important because it preserves locally adapted genotypes, valuable for scientific research and possible re-introduction. The initiative complements on a local scale the largely international work of RBG Kew's Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place.

BSBI members can read more about the initiative in the September 2017 issue of BSBI News, which focuses on one of the first beneficiaries of the initiative. It tells how twelve bulbs of what appears to be the last population in VC55 of Gagea lutea (Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem) were taken (with the landowner's permission and full co-operation) and have been grown on at the University of Leicester Botanic GardenAlthough Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem is listed as of Least Concern on the England Red List, it is on the Rare Plant Register for Leicestershire & Rutland

As the BSBI News article, by Richard, Anna and Dr Geoffrey Hall, County Recorder for Leics. & Rutland, points out, "Although there is a strong case to be made for better protection of wild plants by means of habitat management, there is also a good argument for ex situ conservation, either by growing the plants in botanic gardens or by storing seeds in gene-banks". 

Take a look at the poster, which you can download from this page, and see what you think about this initiative. Leave a comment below! 

Saturday, 9 December 2017

What Kevin did next: Part Two

On Wednesday we brought you news of botanist Kevin Widdowson's poster (on right) showing the fruits of some British and Irish wild flowers and asked if you could guess what they were.

The list giving names of all the plants featured is shown at the foot of this page - did you get many right? Click on the images to see them at full size.

We also featured photos on Wednesday of two extra mystery fruits, just for News & Views readers. They are shown on this page again today, but this time we can tell you what they are! 

One of the mystery plants is a Kidney Vetch (below) and the other is a Shepherd's-purse (on left) which has a special significance for the Widdowson family.

Elizabeth Widdowson, one of Kevin's three daughters, is officially The Measurer of the Tallest Shepherd's-purse Reported to Date in the World, as confirmed in January 2016 by Dr Tim Rich who wrote the BSBI Handbook on this family of plants (Crucifers of Great Britain & Ireland). 

Head over here to read the whole story and find out why Dr Tim thought that Elizabeth, then aged seven, should have double pocket money for her excellent work on Shepherd's-purse.

Kevin's fruity poster has been a huge success - he's been inundated with requests and keeps having to reprint another batch! I asked Kevin how he felt about this success and, modest as ever, he said:

"I'm completely overwhelmed by the response to my fruit poster. I can't quite believe that over 100 people have shown enough interest in it to buy one. I've got a real sense of achievement in having made something that people enjoy both looking at and learning from".

If you'd like to own your own copy of Kevin's poster, best head over here quickly before this latest batch is sold out. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter here and enjoy his wonderful wild flower photos free of charge whenever you like!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What Kevin did next..

Back in 2015, we brought you news on these pages of a new support group on Facebook aimed at guiding beginner and improver botanists through the use of keys to identify wild flowers. 

The brainchild of Notts. botanist Kevin Widdowson, 'Botanical Keys and How to Use Them' had amassed 439 members in its first few months and we added it to the list of 'Helpful Hints for Getting Started in Botany' here and invited Kevin along to the 2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting to demonstrate how the Facebook group worked.

Two years on and Kevin's Facebook group has 1982 members, the blogpost about it has been viewed 1336 times and Kevin has just come up with another fabulous idea! Over to Kevin to tell us about it:

"Now that the main flowering season has come to an end I have been looking for ways to continue my botanical study through the late autumn and winter. I really enjoy winter botany, it gives me a reason to get out and about in the cold weather. 

"Usually my interest is in winter tree identification but recently identifying plants by their fruit character has caught my attention. What has really inspired me is the weird and wonderful ways plants have evolved to protect and disperse their seed. 

"With this in mind I have been taking photographs of any fruit I can get my hands on and attempting to capture their function and intrinsic beauty. After a while I had built up quite a collection and decided to put some of my favourite ones together on a poster. 

"Now, after much persuasion I have decided to make this poster and an accompanying identification sheet available for purchase."

Ok I admit to being one of the many people who saw Kevin's poster and said, you have to make this available for people, with an option to buy a copy! So he's produced an A3 poster and a double-sided identification sheet printed on A4 card (silhouette on one side, list of plant names on the other). 

You can see the poster (top right) and the silhouette (top left) and two extra close-ups of mystery plants which don't appear on the poster. Why not see how many of the species you can identify by these fruits? 

We'll post the list of names on Saturday night but if you can't wait, you can head over here and buy a print copy! (They also make great presents for botanically-minded friends.)! 

Or you can just download the photos and have fun trying to guess which fruit is which. Kevin's aim here isn't to make his fortune, it's just to get people looking at fruits and finding new ways to enjoy their botany. 

You can also head over here and listen to Kevin talking about his fruity project on the second 'Wild Flower Half Hour' podcast.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Notes from the southern hemisphere

Jonathan Shanklin
Image: L. Farrell
BSBI's Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin is heading to the deep south for the next two months - Antarctica! 

Jon used to work for the British Antarctic Survey and was asked to step in and make ozone observations on this winter's trip, after a colleague resigned. 

He set off on Monday and today we heard that he is enjoying temperatures of 30 degrees in Cape Town, where the team stopped off. Jon reports spotting some plants familiar to the UK, such as Common Rye-grass and Petty Spurge. 

You can follow Jon's adventures here - there is also a link in the list (on the right) of blogs by BSBI members.  

But rest assured that before he set off, Jon posted the programme of field meetings for 2018 - read the list with descriptions here or view a table of national and local meetings here.  

Monday, 4 December 2017

Interview with incoming BSBI President Chris Metherell

Chris looks at Eyebright specimens
in the Herbarium at Univ Reading
Image: A Culham
Last week we brought you an interview with outgoing BSBI President John Faulkner, who I caught up with at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting. Incoming President Chris Metherell was also at the meeting, ready to take up the reins, and I was able to catch up with him too. Although everybody was keen to talk to our new President, he very kindly made time to be interviewed for News & Views: 

LM: So Chris, are you looking forward to being at the helm of BSBI?

CM: I'm not sure that being the President quite equates with "being at the helm". These days of course the Society is run by its Trustees and the role of the President is quite different to that undertaken before we became a limited company.

LM: Before you tell us about your plans, could you tell us how you first got interested in botany – has it been a lifelong passion?

Chris and Helena Crouch, joint County
Recorder for Somerset, hunting
Eyebrights in the West Country
Image: F. Rumsey
CM: I suppose you could say "lifelong". My first real botanical memory is, aged about 10, going into the local library and asking if they had any books on flowers.This was of course in the days before "picture books" were commonplace, the first real example, by Keble-Martin, was still some years away. After some discussion among the staff, they came up with a rather thick book, with no pictures. "You might find it a bit complicated" they said and handed it over. 

Back home I sat in our front garden and tried to identify the first weed I came to.  I failed comprehensively! I now know that the book was Clapham, Tutin & Warburg and the plant was Euphorbia peplus. Not perhaps an auspicious way to start...

LM: So where did you study and what did you read?

CM: I read geography and geology at University of Reading and then went on to work in professional theatre. The latter gave me a surprising amount of free time and that was, I suppose, when I really started driving around country lanes looking at plants. I even got to Ben Lawers. Retraining as a lawyer in the 1980s unfortunately meant much less spare time to devote to botany.

Chris helps a younger botanist spot
 Eyebrights on Shetland
Image: I. Denholm
LM: So when did you first join BSBI and how did that come about?

CM: I had joined the Wild Flower Society in about 2000 I think.I remember seeing my first sedge on one of their field trips to the New Forest. I didn't even have a hand lens in those days. The BSBI was a natural progression I suppose. I joined in 2002. It's interesting, now, to look back and ask why I joined the Wild Flower Society first. I think it was "Wild Flower Society amateur vs. BSBI professional". 

I strongly feel that as a society we need to be less intimidating. It's not a matter of "dumbing down". People who use that phrase are already denigrating the people who are not as knowledgable or even perhaps as well-educated as themselves. 

Chris & Helena look at West Country Eyebrights
Image: F. Rumsey
LM: As you know, I'm all for us being less intimidating and helping beginners get involved via activities like #wildflowerhour and the New Year Plant Hunt! So you became active in BSBI and then you became County Recorder for North Northumberland – when was that? And is that where you do most of your botanising? 

CM: I think I became the County Recorder in 2006. Recording there was at rather a low ebb (sound familiar?). The previous County Recorder was by then very elderly, and had operated what at the time was probably a commonplace regime of not accepting any records unless backed by a specimen. Unsurprisingly, this rather put off local botanists who thus never did any recording. The sub-text here is, of course, that there were very few records! We've been catching up ever since.

Chris holds up a herbarium sheet
during an Eyebright ID session
 he gave at Univ Leicester in 2014
Image: L. Marsh
However I do manage to get about quite a bit - everywhere from Shetland to Cornwall and many trips to Ireland. I lead regular trips for the Wild Flower Society and so that means I get to choose to go somewhere really interesting every so often. It was the Burren in 2017. 

Favourite memories? Orkney: It's a fantastic place and botanically fascinating. Glen Clova: sitting half way up a cliff in a huge thunderstorm and listening to the thunder rolling round the Glen while discussing the finer points of Carex vaginata which we had just found. I'm very lucky in that my wife is also a very good botanist and leads trips in her own right for the British Pteridological Society. So we spend lots of time botanising together.

LM: Will you still be able to fit in your County Recorder’s duties alongside being President?

CM:Actually I think it will be far less onerous than being the Hon. General Secretary, a role I filled until earlier this year! Sorry Delyth. [LM: Delyth has taken over as Hon Gen Sec!] I rather think of the President as the "front man" for the society. Schmoozing doesn't take nearly as much time as organising. I hope!

Chris leading an Eyebright ID session at the
BSBI Recorders' Conference 2016
Image: S. Townsend
LM: And how are you getting on with recording for Atlas 2020?

CM: Famously I think. Our overall refind rate is just under 85% (set against records for Atlas 2000).I now have a superb team of recorders and the records just keep flowing in.

LM: BSBI News & Views readers will have followed your progress on these pages towards publishing a new BSBI Handbook on Eyebrights. How is that coming along?

CM: Well! The text was finished in April 2016. Unfortunately the line drawings are proving to be a problem. I've set a deadline for publication of March/April 2018. After that, for good scientific reasons, it would be inappropriate to proceed. Hopefully it will come out as planned.

Chris working late over Eyebright specimens in
the Herbarium at Univ Leicester in 2013
Image: L. Marsh
LM: Regular readers will also have noticed that you are a huge supporter of herbaria! You’ve volunteered in your local herbarium and of course there has been a lot of herbarium work involved in research for the Handbook. Do you think you’ll still be able to spend much time in herbaria once you are President?

CM: I hope so! When I was a child I just loved libraries. I now have a house that looks just like one. Libraries and books are my comfort zone. It's a small step from there to a herbarium. They are such a fantastic resource but tragically underused. If there's one thing I would like to achieve whilst President it is to increase herbarium use. If we don't use them we'll lose them. We've lost some already. Watch this space.

Chris (in hat) teaches Sedge ID on a
Field Studies Course at Rhyd-y-Crethau
Image: H. Metherell 
LM: We also know you as a member of BSBI’s Training & Education Committee, so presumably botanical education is a passion – will that shape your Presidency?

CM: There is no better way of really learning about a subject than teaching it. If we don't pass on field botany in an accessible way no-one else will. Education is now on an equal footing with science within the BSBI. Fine words. Now we have to make the words into reality.

LM: Your diary for next year is probably looking quite busy! Are we likely to see you at many BSBI field or indoor meetings

CM: I plan to get to as many indoor meetings as I can. Presidents need to be visible and available and tea breaks at meetings is such a good opportunity to network. I'm not so sure about taking up valuable places on field meetings.

Chris (in checked shirt) at the BSBI Exhibition
 Meeting 2017 where he assumed the presidency.
That's me (LM) in the violet frock poised to
pounce and interview him!
Image: W. Arshad
LM: Thanks for giving us a taste of what we have to look forward to! Can we invite you to come back once you’ve been in post for a while and give us an update?

CM: Of course.

LM: One final question – will you be taking part in the New Year Plant Hunt in January?

CM: Of course. Not many plants flowering in cold North Northumberland at New Year, but I'm looking forward to using the phone app again. Really easy to use and a great idea. When are we going to get one we can use for regular recording instead of having to rely on bits of paper?

LM: And having thrown down that particular gauntlet, our new President went off to talk to exhibitors and speakers at the Exhibition Meeting. But I'll be taking him up on his promise to come back and chat to us again - watch this space!    

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Interview with outgoing BSBI President John Faulkner

John at home in Armagh
Image: G. Faulkner
In December 2015, soon after John Faulkner was elected BSBI President, I interviewed him about what he hoped to achieve during his presidency

Since then John has always found time in his busy schedule to keep News & Views readers updated about what he's been doing - even at Christmas 2015 and 2016

So on 25th November 2017, the final day of his presidency, I managed to catch up with John again at this year's BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting and Annual General Meeting at the Natural History Museum. It was very busy, with lots of people wanting to talk to the outgoing President, but he very kindly agreed to be interviewed before he handed over the reins:  

John with Lodgepole Pine & Nordmann Fir
Christmas 2015, Charlemont, Co. Armagh
Image: G. Faulkner
LM: John, many thanks for talking to us again, now that you are ready to hand over the presidency to Chris Metherell. So, did you enjoy being at the helm of the leading botanical society in Britain and Ireland?

JF: Immensely! Having lived in Ireland for all but two of my 50 years as a BSBI member, I’ve been exposed to only a fraction of what goes on within our Society. There’s nothing like being at the helm to make you find out how the ship’s community operates. 

So, as well as being enjoyable and meeting many botanists for the first time, acting as President has been a great personal learning exercise. I do now feel much better informed about how BSBI works - and it does so extraordinarily well. 

John presents the 2017 Presidents'
Award to Tom Humphrey;
BSBI Summer Meeting
Image: L. Gravestock
LM: What would you say have been your main challenges as President?

JF: There is no job description for President, and only a few things that you absolutely must do. One of these is to choose, jointly with the President of the Wild Flower Society, the winner of the annual Presidents’ Award. It needs to be done with careful forethought, but it’s not too onerous, and a great pleasure. 

We’ve had really worthy winners in Clive Stace and Mick Crawley for their erudite yet highly readable New Naturalist book on Alien Plants, and now the award has gone to Tom Humphrey for his creative genius in developing the BSBI’s Distribution Database. 

Another obligation is to chair the meetings of BSBI Council. In itself this need not be a particularly burdensome role, but I chose to make it a challenge. The members of Council are a talented and dedicated bunch, but we need to do them justice by making the best possible use of them. Council had been struggling to find its proper role since BSBI became a Trustee-led charity. Developing a shared understanding of Council’s role has been an important project in itself, but it required a thorough look at BSBI’s needs and priorities as a whole.

John in the field talking to
the next generation of BSBI members
Image: G. Faulkner
LM: That sounds like a big task. How did you go about it?  

JF: It’s not something to attempt on your own. The starting point was the Review, initiated originally by the Board of Trustees, but picked up by Council as a forum for members’ interests in the Society. We initiated a consultation of the entire membership, asking for their views on a wide range of topics. 

The response was superb. As you can imagine, ask a bunch of botanists for views, and you get an incredible range of ideas in response. Some were diametrically opposed, but they did give us many pointers. 

John (centre) at a meeting of
 BSBI Publications Committee
Image: L. Marsh
Council then asked a small cross-section of willing members to act as a Review Group, and sift through the replies and convert them into a coherent set of proposals. I doubt whether they knew what they were letting themselves in for! For a start they had a massive amount of material to read. 

They then spent a weekend debating and deciding on the main points for their report, and a few more weeks refining and finalising it. Eventually the fruits of their labours emerged as a report to Council and Trustees entitled A society like no other and containing nearly 50 recommendations, which have been broadly accepted by Council and the Trustees as a basis for moving forward. 

Field meeting at Drumnaph NR, Co. Derry
John on right
Image: D. Rainey
LM:  Sometimes reports are received politely, and then quietly ignored. Is there a risk of that happening to this one?

JF: None whatsoever! We have already started to implement it and have an action plan in place covering all the recommendations.

The key point here is that so many members contributed that there is a strong will to take it forward. The Review Group itself had a deep interest in the success of BSBI, so it was determined that what went into its report would be both ambitious and broadly acceptable. The report reflected the views of members on the one hand and addressed the needs of the Society on the other. Some of its recommendations have been acted upon already. 

John (on right) with his
predecessor (Ian Denholm);
BSBI Summer Meeting 2016
Image: S. Stille
A case in point is the increased effort on fund-raising: our members will be aware of this through the Atlas 2020 Appeal leaflet we sent out with the September Issue of BSBI News. Others are underway: an obvious example is the new-style BSBI News, which members will see for the first time in January 2018. Some of the recommendations are for the future: one which will be of great interest to active recorders is the development of a post-Atlas 2020 recording strategy. All BSBI members can see the report on the members’ section of the website (password required).

LM: You implied that the role of BSBI Council is now better understood. How has this come about? 

JF: One of the recommendations was to write a succinct description of Council’s role and make it available to all. The review process itself has demonstrated how Council can draw together members’ views, and that has made defining its role that much easier. It has also helped to crystallise ideas about the relationship between the Trustees, Council, and Committees. We are working on a draft description of this relationship which of course needs to be fully compatible with BSBI's charitable status. As soon as we have a final version, we will share it with all our members via the members-only area of the BSBI website.

John (on right) with David Morris, County Recorder
for Oxfordshire; BSBI Summer Meeting 2017
Image: P. Spencer-Vellacott
LM:  And you’ve attended a lot of BSBI events!

JF: One of the privileges of being President is that you are entitled – but not necessarily expected – to attend meetings of all BSBI’s committees, and its Board. I did set myself the goal of attending each of them at least once during my two year period of office. 

Happily I did eventually fulfil that aim, as well as going to the Annual Summer Meetings in 2016 and 2017, both Annual Exhibition Meetings/ AGMs, and all of the Council meetings. That amounts to quite a lot, especially when you take into consideration that all except the Committee for Ireland entailed crossing the Irish Sea. Fortunately, some were sufficiently close together in time that one crossing covered two meetings. I would really like to have gone on more field meetings in Great Britain, but with the exception of the Summer Meetings and one trip to the Hebrides, this proved impractical.

John and Dave Riley examining willows;
Drumnaph NR, Co. Derry
Image: S. Spratt
LM: And were you still able to get out much in your local patch and do any recording for Atlas 2020? I know you were at the Drumnaph meeting in Derry and the Five Island Bioblitz last year, and in September this year you gave a talk at the BSBI Ireland Autumn Meeting.

JF: Yes and no! Thanks to the BSBI Database (DDb), I can look up this question in the “my county” section of the DDb and get an approximate figure for how many records immediately.  It is unusual for anyone else to record in my vice-county (H37 - Armagh), so the total number of records for the year closely reflects my own efforts. The 2016 total for H37 was only slightly down on the previous three years. This year’s figure, however, is under a thousand. It looks as though I hardly ventured outside the front door! 

My MapMate, however, tells a different story. What actually happened in 2017 was that I recorded in counties other than my own, as I felt they were in much greater need of recording for Atlas purposes. MapMate tells me that my total of records for the year was only slightly below my all-time best, and that 75% of them were from Co. Louth, the adjoining county to the south.

John looks in vain for open flowers on
 a Hairy Tare; St. Patrick's Church, Dundalk;
New Year Plant Hunt 2017
Image: G. Faulkner
LM: As you have been away so much, is your wife, Gillian, hoping to see more of you next year?

Certainly, I am hoping to see more of her. Although she is not a botanist, Gillian does often come with me on whole-day excursions, like those in Co. Louth. We did a New Year Plant Hunt together in Dundalk this year. That was an ideal way of involving her, as she can contribute by finding any flower without necessarily knowing what it is. (Come to think of it, I didn’t know our first flower of that day either. It was a rather forlorn Hawkweed Hieracium growing on walls around Dundalk Station, later confirmed by expert referee David McCosh as H. grandidens.)

John at home in Armagh
Image: G. Faulkner 
For slightly different reasons, we both prefer that I don’t often botanise alone. Joint overnight trips, however, have been difficult this year because we had various sick animals that needed daily attention, so she has not been on the weekend recording meetings further afield. I am very much hoping she’ll be able to come on some of the exciting meetings planned for the West of Ireland next year. They are always good fun, with plenty of good habitats and the prospect of some lovely plants and fine scenery too. Most importantly, the company is of the very best. I’d recommend them to anyone. 

LM  So now you're ready to hand over the reins to Chris Metherell – do you have any words of advice for Chris as he assumes the presidency? 

JF: No – Chris knows BSBI much better than I do and it would be superfluous for me to offer advice. One suggestion however: I had hoped to do more to project the image of BSBI on a wider stage. Much of my activity has been focused internally. I feel BSBI would benefit from being more externally orientated. We need to make ourselves better known, perhaps as ”the BTO of botany”.  

John in his garden in Armagh
Image: G. Faulkner 
LM: John, I’m sure the members will want to thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in over the last two years as President, and for which of course you’ve received no financial recompense at all – such is the lot of a BSBI President! And now – glutton for punishment that you are – you have agreed to become a BSBI trustee, subject to the membership voting you in later today at the AGM [update: they did so, unanimously!] So you’ll be giving up even more of your time in service to BSBI! 

LM: One final question before you go: will you be going out on a New Year Plant Hunt in January?

JF: Yes, it’s a great way to start a new season. Maybe there will be 6” of snow in England to give us a competitive edge! 

LM: Well, we hope you enjoy getting back out in the field next year and doing a bit more actual botany – we look forward to hearing what you find! Thanks for talking to us today John and thanks again for all your hard work as President.

And with that readers I let John carry on enjoying the Exhibition Meeting and went to catch up with Chris Metherell, our incoming President. I'll be sharing my interview with Chris on these pages in the next few days. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2017

Viewing the exhibits at the AEM
Image: S. Knapp
Yesterday 237 botanists came together for BSBI's Annual Exhibition Meeting, held this year at the Natural History Museum, London (NHM).

The day opened with a warm welcome from BSBI's outgoing President John Faulkner and from Dr Sandy Knapp, Head of the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division at the NHM.

Then Jodey Peyton, ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and a key member of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee, took the stage to introduce the first of the day's speakers, BSBI Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin. 

Jon talked about our 2017 Summer Meeting, held in Flintshire, and our 2018 Summer Meeting which takes place on the Isle of Man next July.
Kevin talks about threatened plants
Image: K. Andrews

More details here.

Next up was Dr Margaret Bradshaw MBE who has been a BSBI member since 1951 and talked about the decline of the rare flora of Upper Teesdale.

She was followed by a botanist at the other end of the age spectrum, Alex Mills, who told us about the NHM's 'Identification trainers for the future' programme.

The morning talks session closed with Dr Kevin Walker, BSBI's Head of Science, on what we learned from the Threatened Plants Project, to which hundreds of BSBI members contributed and which resulted in a recently published book, Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland.

To find out more, check out this interview with Kevin.

Orchid Hunter Leif Bersweden talks to outgoing
BSBI President John Faulkner; you can also see
 the New Nature stand next to Leif's stand
Image: W. Arshad
Then we had 90 minutes for exhibit browsing, networking, lunch and visiting Summerfield Books' pop-up bookshop before returning to the Lecture Theatre for BSBI's AGM.

Ian Denhom was in the chair to run through BSBI's achievements in the past year, to introduce new Hon Gen Sec Delyth Williams and to invite to the stage David Pearman who talked us through BSBI's finances.

We also had the voting in of Council members and trustees.

Packed Lecture Theatre
Image: R. Clark
I'm delighted to let you all know that all five proposed trustees (details here), including the NHM's Dr Sandy Knapp, were voted in unanimously!

The AGM also features the changing of the guard, when we say thank you and goodbye to our outgoing President and welcome our new President, voted in at last year's AEM.

I was able to catch up with and interview both outgoing President John Faulkner and incoming President Chris Metherell and will be sharing both interviews in the next few days.
Botanical artist Martyn Allen shows Monica
Frisch some of the exhibits on the
Association of British Botanical Artists stand
Image: S. Morrish

After coffee we were back in the Lecture Theatre for the final session of the day chaired by Kylie Jones, Anglian Water's Operational Biodiversity Manager and another key member of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee.

She introduced Andrew Branson, longterm BSBI member and former editor of British Wildlife magazine, who has just taken over the editorship of BSBI News, our membership newsletter. 
Packed exhibition hall
Image: J. Mitchley

We got a sneak peek at what we can expect to see in the January issue - exciting!

Next up was BSBI Irish Officer Dr Maria Long who told us how she has been building and supporting Ireland's botanical network

Jaws dropped as she told us about all the fabulous field meetings and conferences she has arranged, the many young botanists who've been getting involved, the celebrated Rough Crew, the buzz on social media... 

George's talk proved very popular
Image: S. Barrell
You'll have gathered that I'm a huge fan of Maria and all that she has achieved in Ireland!

Somebody else about whom I've been known to gush is George Garnett who followed Maria onto the stage. 

I spotted George (then just 15 years old) on Twitter back in January 2014- he took part in our New Year Plant Hunt and was expressing a desire for a career in plant taxonomy.

With his mum's approval we invited him to exhibit at our AEM that year and the following year he became the youngest person ever to speak at a BSBI Exhibition Meeting! 

The entries in the BSBI Photographic
Competition 2017
Image: S. Medcalf
So who better than George, now 18 and reading botany under Dr M. at Univ. Reading, to address the meeting on the subject of Growing the Next Generation of Botanists.

Closing the day's talks was Mark Duffell, botanist, horticulturist, botanical tutor and key member of BSBI's Training & Education Committee, who talked us through how BSBI supports botanical training.
Peter Leonard's exhibit on Leontodon saxatilis
Image: D. Steere

Worth noting here that at the AGM earlier in the day, Mark had been unanimously voted onto BSBI Council, reflecting the fact that training/ education is now acknowledged as one of the "twin pillars" of BSBI, along with our science and research. 

We are committed to supporting that next generation of botanists as well as helping older botanists hone their skills!

And with that we packed everything away and retired to a nearby pub where a private room was reserved for us to unwind after the most amazing day and get ready for the trek home. 

Univ. Reading students in the pub,
 moments after they heard that
John Poland has a new book in the pipeline!
Image: J. Mitchley
Our 237 Exhibition Meeting visitors had come from Jersey, from the Republic of Ireland, from Edinburgh, from north and south Wales, and from across England (Devon and Kent to Yorkshire and Northumberland). 

Another dozen or so people had set off for the meeting but bad weather and cancelled trains conspired against them and they had to turn back. 

For their benefit, and so that anyone else who couldn't make it doesn't miss out, we will be sharing as many as possible of the exhibits in electronic form in the coming days.

Ellen Goddard's poster: kin recognition
and communication in Ground-ivy
Image: E. Goddard
We've already uploaded the eight talks offered at the Exhibition Meeting - you can download them right now by clicking on the relevant link on the programme here

You can also get a flavour of the day's proceedings by clicking here to see what some of those 237 visitors thought about the meeting!

We were also delighted to offer 38 exhibits in total: this includes two exhibitors (from the Institute of Analytical Plant Illustrators and from the Society of Botanical Artists) who turned up on the day and asked if we could find a spare display board for them. 

They were in luck - we always keep a 'Cinderella board' for this eventuality! 

So we'll be inviting them, along with our 36 other exhibitors, to not only send us their exhibits for uploading to our website, but also to share the stories behind those exhibits here on BSBI News & Views. Watch this space!

Dr M's poster: 24 creative
ways to teach botany
Image: J. Mitchley 
Huge thanks go to our hosts, the Natural History Museum, and especially to fabulous Fred Rumsey who led two hugely popular tours of the NHM's Sloane Herbarium and Sandy Knapp who was there at silly o'clock to help with the set-up, who welcomed us, was voted in as a BSBI trustee, tweeted about the meeting throughout the day and joined us in the pub afterwards. We love you Sandy :-)

Thanks also to my fellow members of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee: 
chairs Jodey and Kylie who have also put in so much time in recent months helping prepare for the Exhibition Meeting; 
Ryan Clark and Waheed Arshad who helped man the registration desk, assisted speakers and exhibitors, tweeted and took photos of the day's proceedings; 
Field Meetings Secretary Jon Shanklin who helped set up and dismantle the stands; 
and Ian Denholm, chair of both M&C committee and BSBI's Board of Trustees and is the man behind M&C's success - Ian liaised with AEM speakers and guided and supported us all the way.

Hands up for botany!
Image: J Mitchley
Finally, thanks go to Mike Waller, formerly an NHM ID trainer, who came in early to help with set-up, and to Jane Houldsworth (BSBI Head of Operations) and Julie Etherington (BSBI Finance Officer) who pitched in throughout the day wherever they were needed. 

The day's proceedings would not have gone nearly as smoothly without each and every one of you so - thank you all!