Sunday 30 April 2017

Planning a holiday abroad?

Some of the wildflowers which grow near the cottage
Image courtesy of H. Carapiet
If you are thinking of booking a holiday in the sun this year, and would like to combine it with a little botany, here's a suggestion for you: a cottage to let in southern Spain in an area which the owner assures us is "very interesting from the point of view of botany". 

The cottage is in Polopos "in the Sierra Contraviesa of Andalucia, which is constituted mainly of metamorphic rocks (schists, micaschists and quartz) and also of sedimentary rocks. So most of the soil is siliceous and good for growing vines. The slopes are very steep, often 45 degrees or more, leading to a lot of erosion leaving the soil quite bare. The xerophytic plants are abundant: Genista umbellata, Thymus spp., Cistus spp., Spartium junceum, Stipa tenacissima, etc. Very few woods are left but in Haza de Lino above Polopos there survives the highest cork oak forest in Europe and the most ancient in the Iberian Peninsula. In the ravines are wetlands with a rich flora. It is of interest to note that only 10 km down from Polopos the coast has a Mediterraneo-subtropical climate with its appropriate flora".

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact owner Harry Carapiet or you can see some details about the cottage here and there will be an advert in the September issue of BSBI News. Sadly Harry just missed the deadline for the April issue which has now been published and should reach all our members in the next few days. If you would like to place an advert in BSBI News, scroll down column 2 of the Publications page to download a pdf giving rates and deadlines. 

Friday 28 April 2017

BSBI News: latest issue is now out!

Gwynn Ellis, Editor of BSBI News, tells me that today he's mailing out copies of the April issue of the magazine to all our members, so you can expect to receive your copy in the next few days.

If you're not a BSBI member - I'm really sorry but you won't be able to see a copy for several years, until we post it in the BSBI Publications Archive which is open to everybody.

Which means you'll have to wait to read such delights as: a brand new ID key to native and alien species of Rose; a fascinating proposal from Michael Braithwaite about how we might record our attitudes to 'garden weeds'; reports of a Water-starwort that is new to England; a comparison of 30 years worth of surveys of Maidenhair fern in Glamorgan by Gareth Farr, County Recorder Julian Woodman,  et al.; common problems with the identification of Conyza spp.; the rediscovery of a particular Hawkweed in Orkney; Stephen Bungard on 'Extracting Records from the Scottish saltmarsh survey'; the winner of the Marsh Botany Award...

I could go on (there are 96 pages to report on) but that would spoil the surprise for members; and if you're a non-member - well, you've probably got the idea by now! BSBI News is jam-packed with fascinating articles and if you click here and join us now for the princely sum of £30, you'll receive three printed issues per year of BSBI News, you'll have on-line access to New Journal of Botany, you'll be able to consult any of our 100+ expert Plant Referees whenever you get stuck identifying a plant... again, I could go on and on telling you about all the benefits of membership! Why not just head over here and see what you think?   

Thursday 27 April 2017

Promoting herbaria during Plant Facts Week

Clive Stace in the Herbarium,
University of Leicester, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
This week, the Annals of Botany Blog (or AoBBlog to its friends) is running a #PlantFactsWeek and they contacted BSBI to ask for a contribution. The brief was to answer the question, how can you use online herbaria to learn about plants? 

Now, anybody who knows a bit about BSBI will be aware of Herbaria@Home, one of the original crowd-sourcing projects, set up over a decade ago with the aim of getting lots of volunteers to digitise herbarium specimens so they would be available to all. 

And anybody who is familiar with this News & Views blog may remember the series of posts called 'Which herbarium is Chris in this week?' 

Chris Metherell and Eyebright specimens,
in the Herbarium,
University of Leicester, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
This series ran several years ago when Chris Metherell, BSBI's Hon. Gen. Sec. and County Recorder for North Northumberland, started on the research for his forthcoming BSBI Handbook on Eyebrights. He visited herbaria across Britain and Ireland in pursuit of specimens and, knowing that I shared his passion for these botanical treasure troves, was kind enough to send me numerous photos and reports. Just type 'Metherell' or 'herbarium' into the search box below right and you'll see what I mean! 

So, I got in touch with Chris about the invitation from AoBBlog and we collaborated on an article which was published earlier today. We covered Herbaria@Home, as requested, but I couldn't resist talking more generally about why I love herbaria and Chris tells us how he has used them over the years and how they helped him as he worked on the Eyebright Handbook which, you'll be glad to hear, is getting very close to publication.

Click here to read the article in full. Many thanks to Ian and Anne at AoBBlog for giving me and Chris a chance to talk about one of our favourite subjects - herbaria, both virtual and actual!   

Wednesday 26 April 2017

New Species Account published

The BSBI Science Team (Kevin Walker and Pete Stroh) has just published another Species Account, bringing the total to 79.

The latest account is for Orobanche reticulata (Thistle Broomrape) and covers identification, habitats where this parasitic plant is found, biogeography, ecology, threats, management... there are also references to follow up if you want to know more.

This new Species Account - and 78 others - are all available to download free of charge from this page.

The image of Orobanche reticulata on the right is also by Pete Stroh. For a botanist, he's also a pretty good photographer!

Thursday 20 April 2017

Scottish Newsletter: spring issue now out

Norwegian Mugwort photographed
on Cul Mor by Simon Harrap:
winner in the 'Rare Species' category of the
BSBI Photographic Competition 2016 
This year's issue of the BSBI Scottish Newsletter is now out and features 56 pages of botanical delights. 

You can download a free copy from the BSBI Scotland page or (in return for a small donation to BSBI) our Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh will arrange for a print copy to be sent to you - his email address is   

Inside this new issue you will find a report on last November's Scottish Annual Meeting, Jim McIntosh's annual report (also available via the BSBI Scotland page), an obituary of Eric Meek, details of BSBI's annual photographic competition, dates for national and local field meetings...

There are also items which have not previously been covered elsewhere on the BSBI website, such as an article by David Welch titled 'Another Scottish specimen of Rubus arcticus', a crossword, and an article by Angus Hannah (editor of the BSBI Scottish Newsletter and County Recorder for the Clyde Islands) titled 'Hypolepis ambigua - the story so far'. Altogether an excellent read!

Thursday 13 April 2017

Irish BSBI Conference

Enjoying the Gardens during lunch-break
Image: J. Denyer
The 2017 Irish BSBI Conference was held last month at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, and you won't be surprised to hear that it was a roaring success.

Prof Daniel Kelly talks about  David Webb
Image: R. Hodd
You can see the programme on the Irish Conference webpage, or read a bit more on this blogpost

The hashtag for the conference proved very popular and lots of people used it throughout the day (to share their enthusiasm for all the great talks and workshops) and afterwards (to tell us what a brilliant day they'd had!)

We were all delighted to see how many newcomers attended: people who had not been to a BSBI meeting before and were not BSBI members. 

Many of them were under-30 so organisers Maria Long (BSBI Irish Officer) and Paula O'Meara (Secretary of the Committee for Ireland) are obviously doing a great job enthusing the next generation of Irish botanists!  

Maria (on left) & rushes expert Lynda Weekes
Image: F. O'Neill 
Robert Northridge MBE, County Recorder for Co. Cavan and joint County Recorder for Fermanagh) emailed Maria after the conference: "The programme was really excellent – very diverse, with something for everyone. The preponderance of younger attendees was really impressive! It’s very reassuring to see such a level of interest, and bodes well for the future. Thank you and well done".

Zoologist Ruth Carden tweeted "Enjoying the #IrishBSBIConference in National Botanic Gardens on a glorious day, a zoologist among friendly botanists"; student Cian White enjoyed the "fascinating talk on David Webb" and Fiona O'Neill tweeted: "Loving the #IrishBSBIConference, learning so much and meeting terrific people".

"All ready to teach aquatics": Joanne Denyer 
Ralph Forbes, the other County Recorder for Fermanagh said "It was really terrific to see so many people there interested in plants and the work of BSBI... I am sure the new and non-members present were impressed and hopefully they will become actively involved. Old fogeys like me need reassurance that a new generation of people exist who are genuinely interested in getting their feet wet and recording plants, and addressing the problems that plants face persisting in a rapidly changing environment".

Waterford Institute of Technology's Horticulture Dept. tweeted:

   Mar 25
Great day at the in Dublin today. Will be encouraging our students to attend next yr. Hort & botany an ideal marriage!

And finally, delegate Colm Clarke put it most succinctly of all: "It was a cracker of a conference". 

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Survey of Scottish saltmarsh plants

Many thanks to BSBI Scottish Officer Jim McIntosh who got in touch to tell us about a newly published survey of Scottish saltmarsh plants, to which Scottish County Recorders such as Ian Strachan (Westerness) and Theo Loizou (Angus) contributed. 

Over to Jim:

"From 2010-2012 all known saltmarshes larger than 3ha were surveyed across the Scottish mainland and offshore islands, to compile the first detailed comprehensive national survey of this habitat in Scotland. 

"All saltmarsh and brackish swamp was mapped using the National Vegetation Classification. All mapped areas were digitised to a 1:4,000 scale GIS database. The condition of each saltmarsh site visited was assessed. 

Sea Aster (on left) and Sea Arrowgrass
Image: S. Bungard
"In total, 249 sites were visited and 7,704ha of saltmarsh were recorded and mapped. Click on the link to download the SNH Commissioned Scottish Saltmarsh Survey Report.

"In the process some 20,526 records of vascular plants were made in 34 vice-counties and these have been painstakingly extracted and tidied up by Stephen Bungard (County Recorder for North Ebudes) and uploaded to the BSBI Distribution Database by Tom Humphrey". 

Jim and Stephen also forwarded the link to Iain Macdonald and Stewart Angus, BSBI's contacts in Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and Iain replied – “A brilliant piece of citizen science effort this Stephen. You are putting the rest of us to shame! Thank you very much for undertaking this and for placing the records on the BSBI Database.” Sentiments we can all echo!
Sea-blite in the Hebrides
Image: S. Bungard 

Extra thanks are due to Stephen who provided the images on this page, which also appear in recent newsletters he has published, such as this one and this one

To cap it all, I must tell you that Stephen responded to my request for a photo of the front cover of the Saltmarsh Survey and promptly sent me the image at the top of this page even though he was on a ferry at the time - now there's dedication for you! 

He was returning to his home on Raasay after giving a very successful talk on the Isle of Skye about his work as a BSBI County Recorder (you can find out more on Stephen's blog). Our County Recorders really are an amazing bunch of men and women!

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Welsh 'Domesday Book' of plants: part three

BSBI's Welsh Officer Polly Spencer-Vellacott has been in great demand recently from the media. You'll remember that last week she was at University of Aberystwyth talking about BSBI's ground-breaking Rare Plant Registers, and how Wales has just become the first country on earth to have such a register for every single county.

Well, on Sunday morning Polly was interviewed (again) by BBC Radio Wales, this time for their Country Focus programme (the interview starts about 7 minutes in). Here's the link so you can catch up via iPlayer.

This morning, television got in on the act and Polly was interviewed by Gerallt Pennant for S4C. This interview was carried out in Welsh so when it goes out, those of us who don't speak the language will be hoping for subtitles. We'll share the link once it goes live so keep an eye on Polly's blog.

Polly also found time to put together the image on the right, showing covers of all the published Rare Plant Registers and the counties they cover. 

Polly and Andy Jones, Natural Resources Wales,
talking about Rare Plant Registers at the
University of Aberystwyth last week
Image: D. Williams
And she's been carrying out all her usual duties as BSBI's Welsh Officer, supporting County Recorders and active botanists across Wales. To get an idea of how successful she's been with this, head over to the BSBI Wales page, where you can download a selection of reports from County Recorders across Wales, summarising what they achieved (with Polly's help) during 2016. 

Many thanks to our colleagues at Natural Resources Wales for their continued funding which has helped make all the above possible. And of course thanks to Polly herself! You can follow her on Twitter here and her blog is here.