Wednesday 30 April 2014

BSBI botanist on Radio 4

STOP PRESS News just in from Tim Rich:
Libby Houston and Sorbus spectans at Avon Gorge
Image courtesy of Tim Rich

Libby Houston will be on Radio 4 tomorrow, 1st May at 3pm talking about plants from "one of the top three botanical sites in England". That's what it says on the BBC Open Country webpage about the Avon Gorge. Libby will be talking about the plants that grow there, including Bristol Rock-cress. The programme will be available on iPlayer soon after broadcast. 

Yay, BSBI botanist on the BBC. More please! Many thanks to Tim for the tip-off. 

New News on its way!

Mousetail Myosurus minimus found by Brian
 in a Northampton retail park
Image: B. Laney
BSBI News Editors Gwynn and Trevor tell me that the April issue is back from the printers and is being posted to everyone as we speak! Bear in mind that we have almost 3000 members, so it may take a day or two until you hear that welcome plop of BSBI News coming through your letterbox. 

So in the meantime, here is a sneak preview of the image used on this issue's front cover. 

Yes, one of Brian's Botanical Finds is on the front of News: it's a newly-found Mousetail!

This is where Brian re-found Moenchia erecta
Image: B. Laney
Anyone who follows this Blog will know all about plant-hunter extraordinaire Brian Laney from VC32 Northants. He manages to find interesting plants wherever he goes, and he takes photographs, notes grid references and shares his records with our local county recorders, so all his finds can be verified. He also collects voucher specimens where necessary. 
For notes on BSBI best practice in collecting and pressing plants, see this helpful pdf by the master, Arthur Chater.

Orchids and Rough Hawkbits
Image: D. MacIntyre
It's great to see Brian's excellent work acknowledged with the prestigious award of a BSBI News Front PageAnd an article by Brian inside News gives us more insight into what he has found or refound recently, and the conservation work he engages in around rare and threatened plants. 

But we still don't know HOW he manages to spot them. It's a mystery! We're just glad that he does...

Moenchia erecta in close-up
Image: B. Laney
Other items in this issue of News?

  • Flowers of St Kilda, including a new Dandelion!
  • Two interesting notes from Michael Braithwaite, one about mapping and the other on Bindweeds native to Scotland. Also a review by David Pearman of Michael's fabulous Tour of Berwickshire, as featured on these pages a few months ago. 
  • Donald MacIntyre on "An interesting cluster of orchid species" in a seed crop of Leontodon hispidus near Bath.

I haven't mentioned the two leading articles, because I'd hate to spoil the surprise. Don't worry, you won't have long to wait until your copy of News arrives. And if you are not yet a member but want to join now, Gwynn will send you a copy of the April issue of News with your welcome pack, so you won't miss out!

Tuesday 29 April 2014

BSBI Taraxacophiles at Treborth

Prof Richards and dandelions
Image: M. Lynes
Reports are coming in from this weekend's Dandelion Recording and Training Weekend, held at Treborth Botanic Garden and led by Prof John Richards, BSBI's Taraxacum Referee, and Paul Green, one of two BSBI Welsh Officers

Tim Rich and Robert O'Connor were at the workshop and have posted some photos on the BSBI Facebook page here. Tim reports that the grand total was: 29 species new to Anglesey vc52 and "at least 30" new to Caernarvonshire vc49.  

Tim also says that when Prof Richards saw Taraxacum richardsianum, the dandelion named after him, at Newborough Warren, he didn't recognise it immediately, much to the amusement of all present! 

Taraxacum palustre
Image: G. Quartly-Bishop
Tim is the author of several BSBI Handbooks, including on Sorbus and Hieracium. He has also published several times in New Journal of Botany. His paper (co-authored) in the current issue describes six new species of Sorbus in Britain, two hybrids and a new subgenus.

Tim Rich demonstrating how to press dandelions
Image: M. Lynes
Gail Quartly-Bishop also took some great images over the weekend of the dandelions identified and the recorders out in the field. 

She was very active on Twitter, telling everybody how helpful and enjoyable BSBI workshops are; one image was captioned "One of literally dozens of new vice county records for Taraxacum collected today with @BSBIbotany. Amazing day out!"

Gail says that playing fields, and a meadow on an industrial estate near Bangor, were surveyed and the latter site was where the 30 types of dandelion were found! 

Mark Lynes took a break from his work on the Alchemilla Handbook to attend this workshop. He obviously enjoyed it, so I asked if he was going to forsake Alchemillas for Dandelions. But he said :
No but it's got me thinking about names for new Alchemilla taxa to be described. Brain food!

Taraxacum oblongatum
Image: G. Quartly-Bishop
John Crellin, County Recorder for Brecknockshire, was also at the Workshop and Blogged about it here. He has also very kindly sent us the link to his photo album from the day - click here

Congratulations to BSBI Welsh Officers Polly and Paul for organising such a successful event. And I bet Nigel Brown and the team at Treborth, who hosted the workshop, made everybody really welcome. Mark tweeted that chocolate biscuits were on offer. Do we detect the hand of the excellent Friends of Treborth, who made our visit after the AGM last summer such a pleasure? Tea and biscuits to quieten even the hungriest botanist. See, you are well looked after at a BSBI Workshop! 

There are a few other specialist training sessions in our 2014 programme: brambles, grasses, sedges and ferns. I'm not sure if they are all fully booked, but even if they are, it's worth emailing the organisers and asking to be put on the reserve list.

What exactly do botanists do on a field meeting?

Some members of Cambridgeshire Flora Group
Jon Shanklin (in green hat) second from right
Image: P. Leonard
Jonathan Shanklin is a very active BSBI member - at local and national level - as well as famously being one of the team of 3 scientists who Found the Hole in the Ozone Layer. He has sent me a report of the first meeting this season of the Cambridgeshire Flora Group. In our Yearbook, we do publish reports like this of the BSBI field meetings that we hold across Britain and Ireland throughout the year, but if you are not yet a BSBI member you may never have had the pleasure of reading one of these reports. They offer a real glimpse into what botanists actually do on a field meeting; they give you useful pointers of where to look for nice plants, if you are visiting the locality yourself; and (I think!) they make you want to get out botanising to see what you can find growing or flowering in your own county this week.

So here is Jon's report on the Cambridgeshire Flora Group's visit to Waresley Wood, a BCN WildlifeTrust site, on Saturday 26th April.  

You may spot other nice wildlife on our field meetings!
Image: J. Shanklin
"Most of Waresley Wood is in neighbouring Huntingdonshire (which is administratively Cambridgeshire, but botanically is vc31 rather than vc29). Our targets were to enjoy the woodland flora, to record the small section in vc29, and then do more recording in the area. As an aide, I [Jon S.] produced a list of rare species for the Wood, taken from the Hunts Rare Plant Register (RPR).  Primula elatior is fairly common in the Wood, though its hybrid with Primula vulgaris is only occasional – both were found quite easily. Our first real find was Athyrium felix-femina, picked up when we were looking at another fern.  Previously it had been reported anonymously in 2002, but only in the monad [a 1km x 1km square]. The other fern Dryopteris borreri was also on the RPR, but is now occasional across the wood. 

Greater Butterfly Orchid
Image: I. Denholm
"Next find was leaves of Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha, which we ended up finding in small numbers at scattered sites across the Wood (though not in vc29). We continued through the Wood into the vc29 part, where we made a comprehensive list, which included Conopodium majus, Orchis mascula, Betula x aurita and Sorbus torminalis (believed to have been planted), which are all uncommon in the vice-county. A meadow at the edge of the Wood gave pause for thought – a Calamagrostis with hairs on the upper surface of the leaf. The keys all say that this must be C. canescens, but many of its other features, including those of a second patch in vc31 were more like those of C. epigejos.  

"We left the wood to survey the wider countryside wandering along several footpaths. We didn’t find much that was rare, though a couple of partly pollarded Populus nigra, complete with spiral galls, in a hedgerow was a nice surprise. Heading back towards the Wood we were delayed by a patch of rough ground adjacent to a grass airfield – this had a selection of arable weeds, though none of note. At a fork in the footpath, I suggested continuing along a green lane, rather than returning directly to the Wood, and we were rewarded by finding a small patch of Goldilocks Buttercup Ranunculus auricomus, along with another plant further down the lane, which Alan Leslie suggested was a different member of the apomict group. Then it was back into the Wood to enjoy the flora. 

Paris quadrifolia in Waresley Wood 26/4/2014
Image: P. Leonard
"In a wide ride we found some Luzula, which after a bit of puzzling decided was L. multiflora, another species from the RPR list, with possibly both subspecies present (so are they really subspecies?).  We decided that it was time to strike back towards the car-park, and perhaps find Neottia nidus-avis on the way. Along the way, I stumbled across an immediately recognisable plant in an area with very little other ground flora and called the others to have a look at the leaves of six stems of Paris quadrifolia. Although this wasn’t on the vc31 record card or the RPR list, we assumed that it must just be infrequent, as it is well known in some of the nearby vc29 woods. On arriving back home it didn’t seem to be in the RPR, until checking the data-deficient section it was listed as not having been seen in the county since 1982.  So a very nice find at a new county site.  

When you need to get up close and
personal to a plant... it's nicer if
there are other botanists around!
Image: J. Shanklin
"During the day we added significantly to the records for the two vc29 tetrads that we visited, finding over 150 species in one and over 170 in the other".

Thanks to Jon for such a full report - sounds like a really good meeting! All those plant records will feed into BSBI's databases and will show up on our distribution maps, to be used by other botanists who will go out and record what is growing in their county, and feed their records into the BSBI databases, so they show up on our distribution maps, so that... well, you get the idea!

Let us know what you are recording with your local botany group - if you haven't already, click on the interactive map to find out about local group activity in your area. Thanks also to recorders in South Yorkshire, North Wales and Northants. who are sending in reports and photos from the weekend's local group meetings and the Dandelion Weekend at Treborth. Will post them here throughout the week. And if you want to find out which wild plants BSBI members (and other wild flower lovers) are seeing in flower across Britain and Ireland, click here - you should be able to view photos and comments without logging in or giving your details to anybody!

Sunday 27 April 2014

Brian's Botanical Finds IV

The distinctive rosette of Lizard Orchid
Image: B. Laney
Another recent botanical find from Brian Laney is this Lizard Orchid. Brian says "The picture I have here is of a rosette that should flower at Sydlings Copse in Oxon in 2014. I was told another rosette has been found on the reserve that I missed!!!"

He adds " I have heard it has been refound in Bedfordshire. I have also heard that more sites for the species have been found in Kent including Queensdown Warren, where it had not been seen for thirty years. More sites have also come to light in Sussex." 

Distribution map for Lizard Orchid is here. You can zoom in and see which "squares" it has been recorded in, and when. BSBI members will be out this year trying to add more of those coloured squares on the map. Want to join us?

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Botany in the west of Ireland.

Gerry Sharkey & Maria Long at the IMC
Image: S. Reynolds
Galway seems to be THE cool place to be for botany right now! Not only is there the excellent Botany & Plant Science BSc course at University of Galway, but did you know there is going to be a new Galway Botanic Garden? Click on this link to see their excellent website, follow their Blog and read all about plans for the new botanic garden.

As soon as I have confirmation that the Blog is written by BSBI members (it's so good, surely they are BSBI members??!!) then I can add it to the list of Blogs by BSBI members, on the right of this page. The latest post from Galway Botanic Garden is all about mosses, and very helpful it is too; there's also one about an Irish native seed bank. You can also follow Galway Botanic Garden on Facebook and show your support by "liking" the page.

Irish botanists enjoy BSBI in Ireland 50th Birthday Party
Image: N. Sharkey
I see the presentations from the recent Irish Members' Conference have also been uploaded to the BSBI Ireland page, so everybody can enjoy them, and you can also read more about the new Irish Species Project. 

And of course, just down the road from Galway, there is the local botany group in Clare. It's all happening for Irish botany!

Friday 18 April 2014

Two for the birds

Graham French + sprog drop by BSBI stand at Birdfair 2013
Birdfair is great for family days out!
Image: L. Marsh
BSBI is going to be at two Birdfairs this year. We have booked to attend British Birdfair - the "world's biggest wildlife event" - where we hope to match last year's achievement and win Best Stand (Conservation) again! 

We have a secret weapon to help us this year, but that's under wraps for a little bit longer. Watch out for an announcement in the next issue of BSBI News (if you are a member) and then on this page.

Before that, BSBI members in Scotland will be attending Scottish Birdfair for the second year running, and I hear that Jim (BSBI Scottish Officer) and his team will again be offering plant ID demonstrations and a Plant Quiz. 

Scottish Birdfair 2013
Image: Ken Jack Agencies
Courtesy of RSPB Scotland/Scottish Birdfair
British Birdfair has been running at Rutland Water for over 20 years; RSPB only launched the Scottish event in 2012, but it is already proving very popular, especially with families: children get in free and there is a full programme of activitiesIt's great to see RSPB championing all wildlife, not just birds, and BSBI was happy to be a partner in last year's RSPB-led 'State of Nature' initiative, contributing towards the report and offering a presentation at the launch. 

More info about Scottish Birdfair here, and if you are near Hopetoun House on 10th-11th May and decide to visit Scottish Birdfair, why not send us a photo of the BSBI stand and we'll post it here?

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Pitcher-plant: preserve or eradicate?

Pitcherplant established on Wedholme Flow, Cumbria
 Image: Kevin Walker
A final sneak preview of a paper in the new issue of New Journal of Botany, which - if you are a BSBI member - you can head over to the members' section and start reading right now, or you can wait for the print copy to plop through your letterbox, probably early next week. Many thanks to our publishers Maney for getting this issue on-line in time for some Easter browsing!

In NJB 4.1, you can read a paper by Kevin Walker, BSBI's Head of Science, on Pitcherplant Sarracenia purpurea subsp. purpurea. These showy, North American carnivorous plants have been deliberately planted on lowland bogs and mires throughout Britain and Ireland since the late nineteenth century. 

Pitcherplant established on Lower Hyde Bog, Dorset
Image: David Bird
Kevin says "Since then, established populations have been reported from 38 sites where Pitcherplant has often been conserved for ‘scientific’ reasons. Although there are now several large, long-established colonies, any impacts on native species have been localised due to limited waterborne dispersal of seed. 

"Where plants occur at high density, these impacts have included the displacement of Sphagnum and associated flora, most notably epiphytic liverworts. Many small populations have been successfully removed by hand but, on larger sites, significant regeneration has occurred from juveniles and the seed-bank. The relative effectiveness of other control measures (e.g. chemical treatment, turf-stripping) is currently under investigation". 

Pitcherplant clearance;
Wedholme Flow, Cumbria, 2006
Image: Colin Auld
Kevin's paper concludes that "Pitcherplant is unlikely to pose a significant threat to native species if control is carried out soon after introduction and regeneration is carefully monitored, but the removal of large, established populations will be much more challenging. The control measures required (e.g. chemical treatment, turf-stripping) are unlikely to be acceptable on sensitive sites which support assemblages of rare and threatened plants and insects".

Although Kevin, as Head of Science, is at the helm on BSBI research projects, often in collaboration with partner organisations, and is also responsible for liaising with external/statutory bodies, don't assume that he spends all his time behind a desk! 

Kevin has carried out field-based research on a number of species across Britain and Ireland during his seven years in post so far, and observes "I couldn’t have done any of this work without the records that BSBI recorders provide as well as their intimate knowledge of these species ‘on the ground’. Pitcherplant is a good example of where we’ve been able to call upon this expert knowledge base to build up a clear picture of what impact the species is having at a national scale." 

Kevin will also be heavily involved in the forthcoming Atlas 2020 project: find out more about this here and enjoy his paper on Pitcherplant in the April issue of New Journal of Botany.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Botanical snippets for April II

There is so much happening in botany right now, so here is another compendium of snippets:

Sparganium erectum
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
A Herbal History seminar at Kew in June: click here for details and booking form. You may also be interested to see this short video, which goes behind the scenes at RBG Kew and explains the importance of the work they carry out. There is also this recent piece in the Guardian which talks about the ongoing petition against cuts at Kew, which as of today has over 14,000 signatures. The petition page has a nice bit of video showing David Attenborough at Kew. 

A one-day meeting in Oxford in July to celebrate the 350th anniversary of botanist John Goodyer.

Find out what BSBI Science Officer Pete Stroh has been working on in Cambridgeshire: reintroducing Bromus interruptus.

An update on Ash Dieback from BBSRC and you can find out here about the FRAXINUS game.

A digital sampler here of Gabriel Hemery's update of John Evelyn's Sylva, also featured here on the BBC website and there is an interview with Gabriel on Radio 4's 'Farming Today' still available here on iPlayer.

Tolypella glomerata
Image: C. F. Carter
A reminder that if you live in Scotland, you are spoilt rotten for plant ID courses this year! There's a full programme of mainly botanical delights at FSC Kindrogan and I hear that there are a few places left on at least one of the BSBI/Plantlife courses on Identifying Wild Flower Families being held in Glasgow, St. Andrews and Edinburgh this spring. 

Booking details on the flyer and the BSBI Scotland webpage, where you can also book to attend the BSBI Summer Meeting, if you haven't already. Don't leave it too late or you won't get a place on your first choice of fieldtrip!

Even though there is no longer a Botany degree course in Britain, there is one in Ireland. The NUI Galway website has details on its Botany and Plant Science page of a 4-year course leading to a BSc (Hons) degree in Botany. 

Some lovely B&W images of flowers here from Cy de Cosse Photography. Just because they are pretty! And this page also shows the third and fourth images which will feature on the cover of New Journal of Botany volume 4: one from Claudia Ferguson-Smyth and one from Chris Carter.

Monday 14 April 2014

Hunting the Ghost Orchid

When the April issue of New Journal of Botany comes out later this month, you will be able to read about the history of the Ghost Orchid Epipogion aphyllum in Britain. This enigmatic and elusive plant was famously declared extinct and then refound in the same week in 2009. Sean Cole, the author of the NJB paper, has long been fascinated by the plant, so I asked him to tell us when his love affair with the Ghost started.

The diary that launched a love affair...
Image: S. Cole
Sean said "Christmas, 1978:  I was given a “World Wildlife Fund 1979 Wildlife Diary” and it changed my life. It included a section on some of Britain’s rarest wildlife, including two species of Orchid – the Lady’s Slipper and the Ghost. Both were accompanied by delicate monochrome line-drawings. The Lady’s Slipper caught my imagination, especially when I later saw a picture in glorious colour. I became intent on seeing one in the flesh. In June 2000, I was taken to Yorkshire to see the only wild British Lady’s Slipper. It was a truly stunning flower, but my 21 year wait for it ended in disappointment: access to the plant was forbidden, and it had to be viewed from 100 metres distance! We were also given a piece of paper telling us not to tell anyone about it, or indeed to never return!

Sean in the field
Courtesy of S. Cole
"Later that year I was given more information about the Ghost, including site details, so I set about finding out how to see one of those. Maybe that would be more fulfilling. Little did I realise how difficult it would be. This was not like other Orchids, all of which flowered annually and were viewable at known sites. In this case, not only did it not flower every year, but when it did, it could have been any time between May and October!! To make things worse, it never flowers in the same place twice. I wondered how people ever managed to see them.

"The internet proved to be a valuable resource, and the more information I gathered, the more people were willing to impart their extra piece of knowledge, so I collected every morsel I could and began visiting sites, hoping I could beat the odds and win the Botanical EuroMillions Lottery. An unfinished quest itches and itches and never goes away, and finally, in 2005, I saw Ghost Orchid. In fact, I saw over 600! But I had to go to south-west Germany. It was a landmark day in my life, yet still it wasn’t enough. The sheer magnitude of seeing this rarest of things in my own country was the only true satisfaction. But at least I’d “got my eye in” and had a better chance.

Ghost Orchid at Marlow, 1953
Courtesy National Museum, Wales
"On a visit to Leicester University Herbarium, I saw my first ever British Ghost Orchid – a tiny dried specimen taken from Marlow in 1953, at the site of the most amazing Ghostly event ever to happen in British history. The time when Rex Graham lit his pipe, and looked over the bowl of it to see one of what turned out to be 25 Ghosts at a place where they’d never been seen before! More than anyone had ever seen collectively in Britain. I wanted that kind of moment. 

"There followed visits to other museums holding British and continental specimens. I photographed, measured and recorded each, to fulfil my new aim of recording every British sighting of the species – something that had never been done before, partly due to the extreme secrecy surrounding the species. It is understandable, given that some of the specimens were of underground parts dug up by collectors desperate to prove they had the star prize to show to their counterparts.

Sean is also a serious birder!
Courtesy S. Cole
"In 2009 the worst - and yet the best – happened. A Ghost Orchid, by then feared extinct (again!) – was found. By someone else. I got a phone call saying that this time it was almost certainly a genuine find. I phoned the person involved, who had been sworn to secrecy. The day after this plant had been eaten by a slug, a friend who I had alerted to the possibility of its presence, found the spot.

"Each year since 2000 I have visited places to try and find Ghosts. All of the places I have found out about over those years, I’ve not just visited them once. One year I went to search 11 times, with no luck. The best possibility, the 2009 site in Herefordshire, has been visited several times each year since then. The problem now is that trees around the spot were cut down in 2012, and now it just isn’t likely that it will reappear. The very secrecy that was supposed to protect the plant has caused its demise.

Ghost Orchid at High Heavens Wood, Bucks., 1970
Image: Courtesy of M.B. Fuller 
"This is why I am publishing the data on the Occurrence of the Ghost in Britain. This is why I am helping to organise a co-ordinated search this year; - to increase the chance that I – and many others like me – will get to make my dream a reality".

 If you want to talk to Sean about his hunt for the elusive Ghost, email us at New Journal of Botany and I can put you in touch with him. Click on the images shown here to enlarge them - like this page from Sean's scrapbook (below) showing newspaper cuttings about the Ghost Orchid. And watch out for Sean's paper in the April issue (members only, sorry!).   


Friday 11 April 2014

Can you help us track down a mystery Rubus?

Martin Godfrey has been in touch about his current project at Stoke herbarium. He is "cataloguing a few boxes of Eric Edees's Rubi which don't seem to have been looked at before.  Nice stuff and a number of isotypes, however I have a folder of material which appears to be of an unpublished species - Edees calls it R. subdurescens as it is somewhat similar to R. durescens"

Edees is responsible for the Flora of Staffordshire (1972). 

Martin goes on "There is an interesting letter in with the sheets from a Roy Smith talking about the features which distinguish the new material. I would be grateful for any information which may be known about this "species" (nothing obvious on an internet search) - if none, then it might be a nice opportunity for a publication for someone keen on the genus.  

"Once I have finished the catalogue, I will get it put on the BSBI web site as I suspect that Batologists will be unaware of this material".

So, can anyone help Martin find out more about this taxon? Leave a comment below if you can help or email me at and I'll put you in touch with Martin. 

He has kindly sent along an image of "what would have to be the "type" specimen [above] plus one [right] of its label".

Thursday 10 April 2014

Brian's Botanical Finds III

Flower spike of F. reuteri
Image: B. Laney
One of the plants that Brian Laney has managed to find is the very attractive Fumaria reuteri Martin's Ramping Fumitory. Brian recorded this several times in Kent during June 2011 and these are the first records for the county. This is the info that Brian, who is based in Northants (VC32), has sent through:  

11/06/2011 AND 19/06/2011
"On 11 June 2011 it was recorded by BL at TR31173 65723, growing at the base of a south facing bank on the south side of the A299 by Mount Pleasant roundabout. Also on 11 June 2011, BL recorded the species on a south facing road slope of the A299 at TR32577 65513. On 19 June 2011, the fumitory was also recorded by BL at TR31986 65627, on a wide disturbed strip between airport and the north side of the A299".

A single floret of F. reuteri
Image: B. Laney
You can read a description of F. reuteri here and see a zoomable distribution map for it here.

Read more about other species of Ramping-Fumitory recorded in Kent on the BSBI Facebook page and the Kent Botany Facebook page. The photographs on Facebook are gorgeous - I suspect they were taken by Lliam Rooney?

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Botanical snippets for April

A few planty things spotted on Twitter this week via the BSBI official Twitter account @BSBIbotany 

If you read the news about the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the BBC website recently, you may also be interested in this petition.

The three-part BBC series 'Botany: a blooming history', first shown in 2011, is to be repeated. It starts this Thursday and will be on iPlayer here. Watch out for the sections on Linnaeus and John Ray! Or listen again to Radio 4 programme 'The Botanists' here - 15 minutes on the Millennium Seed Bank.

Want to know more about mapping habitats to describe ecosystems? Click here

A new plant conservation course at Bangor University flags up its secret weapon: their herbarium! Under the headline 'Unique herbarium to be resource to train future plant conservationists', the webpage tells us: "The new MSc course aims to redress a shortage of experts needed to conserve our plant resources for the future. 

"This is in response to a growing acknowledgement that a decline in training opportunities in botanical sciences over the last two decades has led to a shortage of scientists with plant conservation skills and knowledge".

Over at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, a project called PROTREE has been launched to find a long-term strategy for tree health.

Some "botanical art" from San Fransiscan artist Alexis Anne Mackenzie

And the third link of the day to Linnaeus - have you ever wished that you could look through his plant specimens? Now you can - click here to browse virtually.

Images on this page are by Claudia Ferguson-Smyth but she did not select any of them for the new cover of New Journal of Botany, so this may be the only chance you ever have to see them. Enjoy this fleeting glimpse ;-)

Swedish Hawkweeds: Scandi jaune?

The April issue of New Journal of Botany is now at the printers and here is another sneak preview: we are delighted to publish a paper by Dr Torbjörn Tyler of University of Lund, Sweden on 'Critical notes on species of Hieracium (Asteraceae) reported as common to Sweden and Britain'. Torbjörn is responsible for the project The Hieracia of Sweden, is Curator of the Herbarium at Lund LD and is also Editor in Chief of Nordic Journal of Botany. I asked him to tell us something about his work and he said "Although people may believe differently when looking at my list of publications, my main interest is plant biogeography". [Follow the link to read Torbjörn's clear definition of this term.]

Torbjörn in the field
By kind permission, T. Tyler
He continued "When working with the geographic distribution of genetic variation within widespread woodland species for my PhD, using the relatively poor molecular markers available in those days, I recognized the potential of apomictic clones/taxa as ‘markers’ in biogeographical analyses. Therefore, I made a first attempt to analyse the known distributions of the 1,000+ species of Hieracium in Sweden recognized by early C20th experts. However, I found that the available distribution data as summarised by these authors was too coarse to answer my questions about how these relatively recently-evolved taxa have spread in our post-glacial landscape.

"In addition, I recognised that the patterns observed might be difficult to interpret convincingly as long as there is no consensus about how, when and where these taxa have evolved. Further, I found that it was a great pity that virtually no work had been done on Hieracium in Scandinavia since the 1940s. So in 1997 I began to revise the old literature and all existing herbarium material of Hieracium, beginning with the relatively species-poor southernmost Swedish provinces and when I later got the opportunity to also do molecular and cytological analyses, I tried to use these techniques, in combination with thorough multivariate morphometric analyses, to get a better understanding of the evolutionary history and relationships of the species. 

Tim Rich, British Hieraciologist, with a Taraxacum!
Image: C. Gait
"Since then, I have revised all species of H. sectt. Hieracium, Vulgata, Bifida and Oreadea in southern Sweden and in the northern Baltic provinces. Only the species from the northern inland provinces remain, but these also present the largest problems since these remote regions were barely accessible to the early C20th experts, and many taxa growing there remain undescribed. In this work, I have had invaluable help from numerous local amateur botanists, who have made valuable new collections from their home provinces and sometimes also managed to learn their species, strengthening me in my hope that the revisions and keys I have published may indeed be of some use. In addition, I have gained some colleagues who have started to work with those sections of the genus that I considered to be outside my own scope, e.g. H. sectt. Tridentata and Foliosa.

Pilosella officinarum Mouse-ear hawkweed
Image: C. Ferguson-Smyth
"Although most Hieracium species are certainly regional or national endemics that have evolved in post-glacial times, a few species have confirmed wider distributions and, for many more, dubious far disjunct records are reported in the literature. It is in this context that my forthcoming paper for New Journal of Botany, on the identity of some British Hieracium species, came into being.

"Thus, since all biogeographic research depends on the accurate identification of the biological entities studied, I have become increasingly involved in purely taxonomic research, not only in Hieracium but also in several groups of e.g. introduced and potentially invasive species whose origin and taxonomy is not well understood. Furthermore, I consider knowledge of biogeographic facts and processes as the key to biological conservation and I have accordingly taken active part in many nature conservation issues and projects trying to assess recent and ongoing changes in the Swedish flora and its underlying causes".

Many thanks to Torbjörn for telling us about his work and his forthcoming paper for New Journal of Botany. Did you know that Lund was the first university attended by Carl Linnaeus?And I hope you like the Pilosella - another yellow Comp! - which Claudia has selected as the second of her images to appear on the cover of the April issue.