Tuesday 26 September 2017

The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland

David with New Atlas co-authors Chris & Trevor,
'Pearman Day' at RBG Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
We are delighted to alert you to a new BSBI publication from David Pearman called The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland. The book is due out in November 2017 but BSBI members can benefit from a members-only pre-publication offer and order the book now at a reduced price.

For anybody new to British and Irish botany, David was a co-author (along with Chris Preston and Trevor Dines) of the ground-breaking New Atlas of the British & Irish Flora (2002) and also a co-author (along with Clive Stace and Chris Preston) of the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles (2015). BSBI members will also know David well as our President from 1995 to 1998, a stalwart of BSBI's Records and Research Committee, the man who set up BSBI's Science Team (formerly the Plant Unit)... In fact David's contributions to British and Irish botany are so many and so various that in 2014 BSBI held a Celebratory Pearman Day at RBG Kew to honour the man himself (which caused him great embarrassment as he is also extremely modest!) 

David in the field with a very large Hogweed
Image courtesy of D. Pearman
I asked David to tell us a little about The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland:

LM: So David, how did the idea for this book come about?

DP: When we researched the New Atlas, one of my jobs was to try to find out when each plant alien to Britain and Ireland had first been found. That was an entirely new project, but after that I realised that the only corresponding works on the discovery of our native flora were 100 years or more ago, and could well be updated. The advent of the availability of old works on the internet has been of major assistance, especially for one living away from the major museums and libraries. 

David (centre) & Chris receive the Engler Silver
Medal from Sandy Knapp for the Hybrid Flora.
Image: L. Marsh 
LM: So you've been working on The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland since 2002?

DP: Yes, it has taken me nearly 14 years, and the help of dozens of friends, librarians and keepers of the major Herbaria and many others to compile this work.

LM: So, who first described our native plants? 

DP: This book attempts to answer that question, starting from almost the dawn of printing, with William Turner’s Libellus of 1538. Of course there were medieval herbals in the five centuries or more before Turner, and also there is a vast body of folk-lore, but Turner was the first to describe more than a handful and to do so in print. Thus printed sources are the cornerstone of this work, and the first date is given for each of the 1670 species or aggregates of all the indisputably natives and archaeophytes, including 40 or so species that some have argued as native in the last half-century. But this is supplemented by information from manuscripts and herbaria which enable the display of an earlier date, a date of first evidence, for just under half of that total. The names of the discoverers and the counties where each was first recorded are also given, where known.

David at 'Pearman Day'
Image: L. Marsh
LM: And how do you see people using The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland?

DP: Though the primary purpose of the book is to show the details of the discovery and recording of each species, it will also show the progress of discovery, leading to the somewhat surprising conclusion that most (+/- 85%) of our flora had been described by the 1720s, once the critical, non-lowland and doubtful natives have been omitted. Indeed, the main achievement of these last three centuries has been a consolidation of our knowledge.

LM: I gather the book will be 450 pages long and you've told us that it covers 1670 taxa. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the book before BSBI members head over to the members-only area of the website to take advantage of the pre-publication offer?

DP: The very extensive Appendices cover the key herbals and floras, the relevant journals, the important works on the history of botany, some of the national herbaria and have a major section on the botanists who actually discovered the plants.

The New Atlas team: David, Chris and Trevor.
BSBI Mapping Conference, RBG Kew 2012.
Image: L. Marsh
LM: Thank you David, for all your hard work on the book, for telling us more about it and for making it available to BSBI members at a special price which represents a saving of £6 per copy.

You can find out more about The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland by clicking on this link. If you are a BSBI member, you can then head straight to the members-only area of the website and order your copy. You'll need to have your password to hand to access the members-only area. If you've forgotten it, just email me with your membership number.

New publication from BSBI's
Science  Team (set up by David)
Image: P. Stroh
If you are not yet a BSBI member, why not check out this page? It lists all the benefits of BSBI membership and there's a secure payment option, making it very quick and easy for you to become a BSBI member and start getting involved.

As we told you yesterday, this really is the best time of year to join BSBI if you haven't already! As well as saving £6 on the cost of The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland, you can also save £5 on the cost of another new BSBI publication, Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland, and further savings can be made on the range of BSBI Handbooks. 

The membership subscription is still only £30 per year (with special reduced rates for some groups) and if you join us after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts in January and runs until the end of 2018. That gives you 15 months in which to enjoy three copies a year of our membership newsletter, online access to our scientific journal, preferential booking on our annual programme of field meetings and conferences, access to 100+ expert plant referees who will help you identify tricky plants... as well as special offers on a whole range of botanical books, not just the titles mentioned above. 

David with fellow authors Peter Marren &
Mike McCarthy, Pearman Day at RBG Kew, 2014
Image: L. Marsh
By joining us you also become a highly valued member of the leading botanical society in Britain and Ireland which pioneers ground-breaking approaches to world-class research projects (to which you can also make a contribution, whatever your skill level) and supports the next generation of botanists via training and other study grants (for which you are eligible to apply). 

So what are you waiting for? Click here and become a BSBI member today! And if you're on Twitter, don't forget to tweet to @BSBIbotany using the hashtag #BSBImembers so we can follow you back and welcome you publicly into the fold!

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