Saturday 31 March 2018

Juniper: in Byron's Gin and on the BSBI's Database

Juniper photographed in the Outer Hebrides
Image: Paul Smith 
This month's post about Byron's Gin focuses on a plant without which - well, gin just wouldn't be gin! Juniper is an essential ingredient in gin but did you know that it is a plant in decline across Britain and Ireland? 

This BSBI distribution map shows where Juniper has been recorded over time. It was one of the species studied under the BSBI's Threatened Plants Project (TPP). If you have a copy of Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland, the recent publication which arose out of the TPP, you'll be able to read more about the factors driving the decline of Juniper, especially in lowland areas in England: Juniper is listed as Near Threatened on the England Red List
You can also read more about Juniper in this factsheet from Plantlife and on the Woodland Trust's website.

While most of the botanicals used in Byron's Gin are harvested sustainably in the distillery's grounds and nearby surroundings, the juniper is sourced from further afield to avoid impacting negatively on local populations. So you can drink Byron's Gin with a clear conscience! And don't forget that for every bottle of Byron's Gin sold, a contribution is made to BSBI's training programme, helping us to train and support the next generation of botanists.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Invasives Week: plants of concern

© NNSS Crown Copyright 2009
23rd - 29th March is Invasives Week and the focus is on plants that government agencies and conservation bodies need to know about, so that suitable action can be taken. 

Throughout the week you can follow the #InvasivesWeek hashtag to find out about some of the organisations taking part in this awareness-raising week, the resources they are offering and the species to look out for.

We asked Stan Whitaker from Scottish Natural Heritage to tell us more. 

Over to Stan:    

© Trevor Renals
"The European Union has placed some of the most invasive alien plants on a list of species of Union concern

"More than half of the British flora consists of alien plants but the vast majority coexist harmlessly with our native plants. Only a small minority become invasive and seriously affect our native wildlife and environment.  

Floating pennywort
© NNSS Crown copyright 2009
"There are species alerts for water primrose and various-leaved water-milfoil, which have already choked waterways on the continent. 

"Please report sightings urgently, so that they can be eradicated before they do the same here. 

"In Scotland, Floating pennywort and Parrot’s-feather are being eradicated, thanks to BSBI records. We also want to tackle Giant-rhubarb on the west coast and islands, and need your help to find out where it grows.  

"Perhaps American skunk-cabbage is too widespread to eradicate everywhere, but your records can help to protect vulnerable habitats from invasion.

American skunk-cabbage, West Loch Tarbet
© David Knott
"Records of other high-impact alien plants will help with monitoring aquatic habitats, under the Water Framework Directive. Not all sites will be priorities for control but your records will help us to build our knowledge and to prioritise future action." 

Many thanks to Stan for alerting us to these invasive plants, some of which (e.g. the Giant-rhubarb Gunnera tinctoria) have featured previously on these pages

It's good to hear confirmation that BSBI records are helping in the fight to eradicate these invasive plants. You can also read more about invasive plants in papers such as this one, co-authored by Kevin Walker, BSBI's Head of Science.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Botanical art class at the Linnean Society

Artwork by Maria Sibylla Merian
© The Linnean Society of London
We are always keen to promote the excellent work of the Linnean Society of London to News & Views readers - as the world's oldest active biological society (they were founded in 1788) they are one of the few societies who can make the BSBI feel like a young upstart: we've only been around since 1836!

So it was a pleasure to hear from Joe Burton, the Linnean Society's Education and Public Engagement Manager, about a new botanical arts class they are offering. 

Over to Joe to tell us more:

"The Linnean Society is offering a one-day painting course on the 10th April, led by professional artists, Rebecca Jewell and Sandy Ross Sykes. The watercolour workshop will start with a special viewing of the Linnaean collections in the vault, along with an exploration of some original artwork in the beautiful library, and participants will then work on drawing the specimens in the newly built Discovery Room.

"More information here:

Thanks Joe - we'll leave you with a peek behind the scenes into the Linnaean strongroom:

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Coming soon: Wild Flowers of The Isle of Purbeck, Brownsea & Sandbanks, 2nd. ed.

Early Spider-orchid:
a Purbeck speciality
Image: Edward Pratt
Botanists have a treat coming up - a second edition of The Wild Flowers of The Isle of Purbeck, Brownsea and Sandbanks is about to be published and BSBI members will be able to benefit from a discounted special offer on the price. Author Ted Pratt tells us a little more:

"This is not a Flora of the usual kind, but it is a book which is perhaps the first of its style, in that it directs readers precisely to the less common plants – of which there are many in this area. It describes where they may be seen on land which is open to the public - by roads, bridleways, and paths, and in open access downland, woods and heaths, of which there are plenty in Purbeck. Sites are often given to the nearest 10 metres!  - except for a very few of the rarest species which might be dug up.

"Twenty-four hand-drawn maps show all the location reference points used in the lists of sites for a species, e.g. “SE side of road through Great Wood in several places”; also use is made of the county council parish numbering scheme for bridleways and paths, e.g. “E of path 13 75m S of junctions of paths 13 and 14”. The book was written for beginners as well as for others, so map references are only used when really necessary, for example in the middle of a heath.

Hand drawings of Turkey Oak
leaves from the forthcoming book.
Courtesy of Edward Pratt
"The first edition was published ten years ago, and, after being enthusiastically reviewed in various publications, it has sold out! It covered over 1200 species; in the second edition 81 more taxa have been added to those. There are several other additions, including a Quick Guide to finding a species, and location maps both of the 39 flower-rich sites described in the introduction, and of the 48 special seasonal sites (sites with a Wow! factor), and of the 22 suggested walks.

"Although it is not primarily an identification book, help is given with distinguishing similar species, e.g. of Zigzag Clover Trifolium medium it says “It has shortly stalked heads (compare Red Clover above), and leaves hairless on the upperside. Stems are only slightly zigzag and usually hidden by other vegetation.” There are occasional hand drawings of points not found in identification books, e.g. a drawing of five different shapes of Turkey Oak Quercus cerris leaves, and another of eight different shapes of Grey Willow Salix cinerea leaves, and another showing the shapes of Adria and Trailing Bellflower leaves Campanula portenschlagiana and C. poscharskyana, and another showing how to identify Hybrid Reedmace Typha x glauca. There are also 129 colour photographs.

Autumn Lady's-tresses
Image: Edward Pratt
"The author has received a number of expressions of appreciation from those who have brought the book on their holidays in this beautiful part of Britain".

Many thanks to Ted for telling us about this forthcoming title. If you are not a BSBI member you will still be able to buy a copy of Wild Flowers of The Isle of Purbeck, Brownsea and Sandbanks 2nd. ed. from all reputable natural history book-sellers but you won't be able to benefit from the discount. 

There are several other titles due for publication this year for which a discount will be offered to BSBI members so if you'd like to find out more about all the benefits of BSBI membership, head over here.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Garden plants: a threat to the environment due to climate change?

Last time Tomos Sion Jones appeared on these pages, he was telling us about an orchid course he was able to attend thanks to a BSBI Training grant

A year on and Tomos has started his PhD and now he wants to reach out to BSBI County Recorders. Over to Tomos: 

"Calling all BSBI Vice-County recorders (VCRs)! I’m a PhD student at the University of Reading, investigating the possible impacts of climate change on the distribution of garden plants and what threat garden plants present to the environment. Most garden plants are expected to have an increasing geographic range in the future. This could be a result of climate change. I’m interested in garden plants which have escaped ‘beyond the garden fence’. In particular, the factors influencing their transition along the introduction-naturalisation-invasion continuum (Richardson et al., 2000):
The introduction-naturalisation-invasion continuum. Red arrows show the transition processes and the black arrows represent the factors that influence the processes. Adapted from Levine et al. (2004:976) and Milbau and Stout (2008: 309).

Proportion of returned VCs 
(excl. the Channel Isles)
Data: OS data © Crown copyright
 and database right (2017)/
© OpenStreetMap contributors (2015).
"The initial element of this project is an online survey for BSBI VCRs. So far I’ve received completed surveys for 18 (of the 153) vice-counties across Britain and Ireland. The preliminary results from this survey are very interesting - especially on the ‘top five’ garden plants of increasing concern in each vice-county. That is, garden plants which are showing signs of naturalising or having invasive potential. Some of the results, such as Gunnera spp., are not a surprise. 

"However there are also results that I wasn’t expecting. For example, Narcissus spp., which are often naturalised but I wouldn’t have considered them to be of increasing concern. Also, Cyclamen hederifolium. It was introduced as early as 1597 (Stace and Crawley, 2015) and is a nice example of the ‘time-lag’ that’s often observed between introduction and naturalisation. C. hederifolium has certainly been naturalising recently but does it have invasive potential?

"It’s garden plants such as this that I’ll investigate further using ecological niche modelling. Comparing the climate of a plant’s native range with climate projections for Britain and Ireland will allow me to predict which garden plants might find future climate suitable and have an increased potential to naturalise or invade. 

Cyclamen hederifolium
Image: Meneerke Bloem / CC-BY-SA
"In the survey, VCRs are asked to rank their agreement or disagreement with the statement ‘climate change is exacerbating the impacts of garden plants on native plant species’. Interestingly, only five (27%) of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement. This is much lower than I was expecting as I generally consider climate change as facilitating the transitioning process. However, it’s unexpected responses like this which are important for my project.

"I hope to receive completed surveys for as many vice-counties as possible so that I can compare the results for different parts of Britain and Ireland. So I encourage all VCRs to complete the survey. Many thanks to those who have already done so! If recording duties are shared for your vice-county, both/ all VCRs are welcome to complete it. If you would prefer to complete a hard-copy version, please email me with your postal address. You should read the information sheet before starting the survey. The survey will be open until Monday, 30th April [LM: this is an extension to the previous deadline]. If you have any questions, please email me.

"Please note that there’s an error which will affect VCRs for the Channel Isles. I’m afraid you’ll need to select vc112 Shetlands and leave a note on the survey explaining which of the Channel Isles you’re responsible for.

"I look forward to receiving more responses and sharing the results with the BSBI. I’ll have an exhibit at the next BSBI Exhibition Meeting and results might be used in published research".

Levine, J.M., Adler, P.B. and Yelenik, S.G., 2004. A meta-analysis of biotic resistance to exotic plant invasions. Ecology Letters, 7, pp.975-989.
Milbau, A. and Stout, J.C., 2008. Factors Associated with Alien Plants Transitioning from Casual, to Naturalized, to Invasive. Conservation Biology, 22(2), pp.308-317.
Richardson, D.M. and Pyšek, P., 2012. Naturalization of introduced plants: ecological drivers of biogeographical patterns. New Phytologist, 196, pp.383-396.
Stace and Crawley, 2015. Alien Plants. London: William Collins.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

BSBI trustee celebrates Linnean Society's first female fellows

Sandy (2nd from right) and fellow London botanists
take part in the 2018 New Year Plant Hunt
Image : L. Bersweden
Dr Sandy Knapp, a BSBI trustee, Head of the Algae, Fungi and Plants Division, Dept. of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London and President-elect of the Linnean Society of London, has written an excellent blogpost celebrating the Society's first female fellows. You can read it in full here.

Sandy is an active BSBI member as well as a trustee, a world-class taxonomist and expert in the potato family Solanaceae, a great science communicator and advocate of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

Her blogpost coincides with a meeting the Linnean Society is holding tomorrow 21st March to celebrate its 230th anniversary and the 16 women fellows it voted to elect in 1904.

Sandy was astonished by Roger Horton's
'Fooled by Babington' poster at the
2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: Waheed Arshad
BSBI has a long history of welcoming both female and male botanists - as this poster displayed at the 2015 BSBI Exhibition Meeting and this article in New Journal of Botany point out, female members were exchanging herbarium specimens in the early days of the Botanical Exchange Club/Botanical Society of London, fore-runner of the BSBI

So it seems particularly fitting that the BSBI should applaud Sandy and all our friends and colleagues at the Linnean Society in their endeavours tomorrow to - as Sandy's blogpost says - "celebrate the efforts and successes of female natural historians in documenting and describing the world around us" and "come together and discuss how to expand the diversity in our community to become a catalyst for change".

Wednesday 14 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: updates

Spring Conference 2017, Glasnevin
Image: R. Hodd
A couple of updates to the programme for this year's mouth-watering programme for the BSBI Irish Spring Conference, to be held in Dublin on Saturday 24th March at the National Botanic Garden, Glasnevin.

First of all, the themed walk around the Botanic Garden will be led by none other than Director Matthew Jebb himself, a botanist so eminent that he has his own Wikipedia webpage.

Second, another flash talk has been added to the programme - this one is about the National Plant Monitoring Scheme in Ireland and it will be given by Pauline Campbell.

Viola lactea
Image: M. Porter
And an update to the info we gave you about the BSBI Viola Handbook. You'll remember that the Spring Conference has a bit of a Viola theme, with a talk and a workshop by Mike Porter, lead author on the Viola Handbook. 

We're delighted that Summerfield Books, BSBI's book-seller, will be offering delegates to the conference a chance to buy a copy of the Handbook at the special discount price of £13.43/ 16.39 euros, which will include postage and packaging (you'd normally pay RRP £14.99 + £1.99 P&P!). Conference organiser Maria Long will let all delegates know how they can take advantage of this special offer - many thanks to Summerfield Books for their support!

Tuesday 13 March 2018

BSBI Summer Meeting: bookings open

Bookings have opened for the BSBI Summer Meeting which this year is being held on the Isle of Man and runs from the 16th to the 23rd of July. 

It's a joint meeting with the British Bryological Society and there will be lots of bryologists attending as well as botanists at all skill levels, so you are really getting two meetings for the price of one! 

As Organiser Jon Shanklin points out in his flyer about the meeting, "the amazing thing about the Isle of Man is that it has a great variety of habitats in a small area". These range from reservoirs to saltmarsh, woodland to coastal heathland. Uncommon plants that you might expect to see include Whorl Grass, Dodder, Royal Fern and Isle of Man Cabbage.  

Accommodation is at King William's College, an independent boarding school on the island - details of the accommodation package and the daytrips planned are all available on Jonathan's flyer on the Summer Meeting webpage.

This meeting is the perfect opportunity to pick up some moss identification skills as well as catching up with fellow botanists so please head over to the webpage and check out what's on offer! The page also has links to several blogposts from previous years' Summer Meetings so you can get a flavour of what goes on at a Summer Meeting and decide whether it appeals to you.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

BSBI Irish Spring Conference: bookings now open

Maria with Lynda Weekes (rush ID
workshop leader),
2017 Irish BSBI Conference
Image: Fiona O'Neill
The Irish BSBI Conference has now become an annual event, taking place in March or April each year in the National BotanicGardens, Glasnevin

It is always a great event, with lots of smiling faces, eager to meet up with friends, old and new, and to get ready and raring to go for the new recording season!

Irish Officer Maria Long said “I just love the Irish BSBI Conference each year. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and there are often last-minute hurdles to negotiate, but every year it has been fun, informative and a joy to organise. 

"I get a real buzz out of seeing all the keen faces, some familiar, some new, but all enjoying the presentations, workshops and events. 

"We are very lucky too to have great support from both the National Botanic Gardens and Teagasc. So it’s a real team effort. 

"This year’s talks and workshops look great – so I really can’t wait for the day!

John Conaghan, Rory Hodd & Jo Denyer
enjoy a walk in the beautiful
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Image courtesy of J. Denyer
"You’ll find more info on the Irish Conference webpage and I’d advise you to download the programme and booking form right away and get your place. Join in the action by using #IrishBSBIConference, and follow the action on Facebook (@IrishSectionBSBI) and Twitter (@murlong77, @BSBIbotany). After the conference, talks and photos will be available on the Irish Conference webpage

A few highlights for you to look out for: Mike Porter, author of the BSBI Viola Handbook, is offering a talk and and an ID workshop on violets; Jessica Hamilton will be talking about botany in Kerry; Clare Heardman will be talking about Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist; Rory Hodd will be giving a flash talk on Killarney Fern... and there's lots lots more so do check out that programme in full!