Monday 30 September 2019

BSBI's book-sellers, Summerfield Books: interview with owner Paul O'Hara

A small selection of Summerfield Books' stock
Image: P. O'Hara
If you buy books on botany, or any other branch of natural history, you’ll know about Summerfield Books, the independent family-run book-sellers for new, rare and out-of-print books from around the world on botany, forestry, arboriculture and natural history. But did you know about the special relationship between Summerfield Books and BSBI? 

I caught up with owner Paul O’Hara to find out more: 

The Old Coach House
Image: P. O'Hara
LM: So Paul, can you start by telling us a bit about Summerfield Books – where are you based and how long have you been going?

POH: Hi Louise. Thanks for inviting me to have a talk with you. We are based just outside Penrith, in Cumbria. The business is currently located in the Old Coach House, one of a number of sandstone buildings in the Leeming Estate. It’s right next to junction 40 on the M6, so handy for people to call by and the setting is very pleasant, it’s surrounded by trees and next to an arboretum. We’ve been running the business since 2007 but it was originally set up in 1985.

LM: And roughly how many natural history titles do you have in stock at the moment? 

Paul (in beige top) enjoys a training workshop at
the 2016 BSBI Recorders' Conference
Image: L Marsh 
POH: Well… on the website we have something like 7000 titles, mostly new books, and as many if not more second hand books, most of which are not on the website. At any one time we would have perhaps 75% of the books that are on the website in stock, with the remaining titles either awaiting delivery or re-order.

LM: That’s a lot of books! There’s so much to browse on your website – and I hear you are in the process of setting up a new website – how will that differ from the current one?

POH: The focus of the new website is very much customer led. So, the site will be more responsive, and easier to navigate – the search function is a lot more sophisticated than the old site. The payment process will be simpler and there will be a lot more choice of books, including second-hand ones. Our old site is pretty much at the limit of what it can handle, whereas the new one can easily take ten times as many titles as we have at the moment. At the back-end it will reduce wo(man) hours spent adding books and producing invoices etc. This will free us up to spend more time amongst other things, communicating with customers and focusing on product development.

Chris O'Hara chats to BSBI President Chris
Metherell in Summerfield's pop-up bookshop
at the BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2018
Image: L. Marsh
LM: BSBI members love being able to log in to the password-protected ‘members-only’ area of the Summerfield Books website to claim exclusive discounts on selected titles. A reminder here that if you can’t remember the password, just email me and tell me your membership number and I’ll send you your password by return.

But I wonder if non-members realise that as well as BSBI Handbooks and other titles published by BSBI such as Threatened Plants in Britain and Ireland and The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain & Ireland, Summerfield Books also offers discounts on titles such as Rose & O’Reilly’s The Wild Flower Key (2006). There are even books about garden plants and non-vascular plants, such as the European Garden Flora and Mosses and Liverworts of Britain & Ireland. Can you give us any clues about other books on which you might soon be offering discounts?

BSBI publications and
other botany books
Image: P. O'Hara
POH: We add books that we feel are useful for BSBI members, especially new members, and which we can afford to offer a bit more discount on. On the new site there will be more entries as it will be a more facile process than it is at the moment, currently every title in the member’s area has to be duplicated from the main area. 

As to what will be in the member’s section of the new site – well, members will have to login to see! 

LM: Hmm, I see you are going to keep us in suspense! Every botanist I know really enjoys receiving the catalogues you send out – what’s the best way for people to get on to your mailing list so they can keep us with the latest news from Summerfield Books?

POH: It’s very simple to sign up on the website or you can just send us an e-mail or telephone.

LM: And of course people can follow you on Twitter…

John Poland browses Summerfield
Books' shelves at the 2016
Recorders Conference
Image: L. Marsh
LM: But of course it’s not just about the books. You have a wonderful selection of hand-lenses at different magnifications, with and without lights, with graticules… ranging from a basic £4 x10 lens to a swanky scale loupe with a graticule – pricey but once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand why it’s recommended by John Poland of Vegetative Key fame! Anything new in this section that you’d like to tell us about?

POH:  We’ve been selling lenses that can be added to your smart phone – called BLIPS. They are produced by SmartMicroOptics Srl which sprang up as a product based on research undertaken by the Italian Institute of Technology. They are very simple to use, modestly priced and fun to play with. We also have a loupe and graticule (KIMAG 10) with a LED  built in  – John Poland is also very impressed with it! 

Now is a good time to buy as prices on lenses (most are produced outside the UK) and global supply problems are pushing up prices. We are currently holding prices, but we will have to increase them soon.

A small selection of the hand-lenses
stocked by Summerfield Books -
seen at the 2018 BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: L. Marsh
LM: Ooh we’d better get our skates on! I’ve just noticed that there’s even a plant press for drying herbarium specimens!

POH: We’ve been introducing a few new products that botanists especially might need and if there are other products that people would like, then we would encourage them to let us know what would be useful to them. We’ve also been promoting a few locally made products such as bird/squirrel boxes and feeders. Again we are open to suggestions for products that customers would like to see on the site.

LM: The Summerfield Books pop-up shop has become a real feature of BSBI national events. The Scottish Botanists’ Conference, the Recorders’ Conference and the Annual Exhibition Meeting just wouldn’t be the same without you!  So we can look forward to seeing you at RBG Edinburgh on 2nd November for the Scottish Botanists’ Conference and again at the Natural History Museum on 23rd November for the Exhibition Meeting?

Summerfield's pop-up bookshop at the
2018 Recorders' Conference
Image: C. Dwyer
POH: Yes we’ll be there!

LM: Great, I’ll bring my ‘Wants’ list along and get ready to browse your new titles and try out your new hand-lenses! Thanks for talking to us Paul.

If you haven't yet joined BSBI, you won’t be able to benefit from access to Summerfield’s BSBI members-only area, so 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

October really is the ideal month in which to join BSBI if you haven't already! There are exclusive special offers on BSBI books, available only to BSBI members, and of course if you join BSBI after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts in January and runs until the end of 2020. More tomorrow (1st October) about all the benefits of BSBI membership!

Sunday 29 September 2019

Lemon-scented fern

Lemon-scented fern
Image P. Stroh
In a series of blogposts since January 2018, we've looked at all but one of the botanicals selected by Andy Amphlett, BSBI's County Recorder for Banffshire, and Sandy Jamieson, manager at Speyside Distillery, for inclusion in one of the two expressions of Byron's Gin. Our final botanical is lemon-scented fern Oreopteris limbosperma

Lemon-scented fern gets its name from the distinctive lemony smell which comes from yellow glands on the underside of the leaves. If you encounter this fern in the wild, do bruise and sniff a fresh leaf to release the scent! 

This BSBI distribution map shows you where to look for lemon-scented fern. As you'll see, it is very happy in Scotland but absent from many parts of the English east midlands!  

Friday 27 September 2019

2nd edition Vegetative Key to the British Flora: interview with co-author John Poland

John checks out some limestone pavement,
looking for Dryopteris submontana
Image courtesy of J. Poland
When the first edition of the Vegetative Key to the British Flora was published a decade ago, it quickly became a botanical best-seller, was awarded the BSBI/ Wild Flower Society Presidents’ Award and revolutionised the way we identify plants. 

No longer did botanists have to wait for the few weeks or months of the year when we’d see the flowers and/ or fruits which every other ID book asked us to look at. 

Suddenly we had a much bigger window of opportunity in which to try and identify plants – if there were leaves and/ or stems, we could at least attempt an ID.

John (on right) chairing a meeting of
BSBI's Publications Committee
Image: L. Marsh
Authors John Poland and Eric Clement have now produced a second edition of the Vegetative Key to the British Flora and it’s due to be published this autumn. 

I caught up with John Poland (who is also Chair of BSBI’s Publications Committee) to find out more:

LM: So John, ten years on from the first “Veg Key”, as it’s known to its many friends, what made you and Eric decide to do a second edition?

A rare photo of the legendary Eric Clement
(he prefers to stay out of the spotlight!)
with John in the background
Image courtesy of J. Poland 
JP: The original was a good first attempt! But there is always so much more to learn; many diagnostic characters were missed, overlooked or the potential of them wasn’t fully realised until too late. 

This second edition hopes to correct this by evolving a more definitive ID guide based on ten years’ worth of collective (and constructive) criticism from botanists who’ve been using the book. Mind you, there’s always room for improvement! 

But writing the Twig Key gave me a new perspective on key-designing concepts so some of these have been applied to the new Veg Key to make it even easier for users.

John road-tests the
Twig Key at the 2018
Recorders' Conference
Image: L. Marsh
LM: So for anybody who bought the first edition and wonders why they should fork out for a second…

JP: Well, most importantly, every key has been revised to make ID easier and more accurate. We’ve added in more taxa including some hybrids such as the commonly occurring willows Salix spp. that adorn planting schemes everywhere. 

New natives such as the Scarce Tufted-sedge Carex cespitosa found in Hertfordshire have been included - always exciting in the hope that shy-flowering colonies will be found elsewhere. 

Neophytes are hitching a ride all the time and hortal plants jumping over the garden wall! So it’s important we include anything a recorder is likely to encounter.

Also, everyone likes a bargain - this is an inflation-busting book! Since work first started on the Vegetative Key, we’ve almost covered the distance to the moon, using every mode of transport from hovercraft to helicopters, in a quest to critically examine plants. We think it offers good value for money!

Dinner with John and he's still botanising...
Image: L. Marsh
LM: John, you're known for asking botanists visiting the far corners of Britain & Ireland to collect specimens for you, but you and Eric are mainly notorious for spending your holidays not basking on some tropical beach but travelling around Britain and Ireland at your own expense looking at plants yourselves! We’re grateful to you both for your… dedication? obsession? 

In fact John, you can't even visit a restaurant without trying to work out what kind of mint is garnishing your pudding (see pic on right!)

Anyway, what about the nomenclature? The first edition used Stace 2nd ed. (1997) names because it came out just before Stace 3rd ed. (2010) was published.

Kim & Vanessa using the Veg Key
Image: L. Marsh 
JP: We’ve brought scientific names right up to date in line with Stace 4th ed. (2019). English names are largely unchanged although we have rebelled on the odd occasion, preferring Peanut to Ground-nut for example!

LM: Fair enough. Any changes to how the text is set out?

JP: Before, the text followed a set order, which meant that certain crucial characters weren’t easily picked out. In light of experience (and by glancing at the Veg Key copies of users), it has been restructured so the best key character comes first and there is underlining to highlight these helpful characters hidden in the main text. 

John leads a Veg Key workshop at the
2016 Recorders' Conference
Image: R. Mabbutt
We’ve obviously kept with the polychomotous key design as this makes for a speedier key, by setting out all the options.

LM: Oh good ideas, the re-structuring and the underlining. My copy of the first edition is full of underlining and highlighting, as I think you’ve noticed! So lots of reasons for anyone who loved the first edition to invest in a second edition. 

With all these improvements, does the new book weigh much more than its predecessor?

JP: Remarkably, the weight is exactly the same – botanists have enough stuff to carry with them! In the original preface, we talked about a “bigger and better edition”. 

John & friends at Cookham Commons
after BSBI 2012 AGM in Berkshire
Image: L. Marsh
Our kind critics were not happy about the “bigger” bit so we’ve kept the number of pages identical without reducing text size or information. No mean feat but we’ve used space much more efficiently.

LM: Great, so better but not heavier! How about the illustrations? Have you used the same artists and illustrators this time?

JP: The focus has largely been on the text as we wanted to get it as accurate as possible, but Robin Walls kindly provided some more illustrations to fill in gaps and clarify text (particularly with the sedges). 

The colour plates by Colin Smith and Niki Simpson have been updated too. One day, we’d like to produce a fully illustrated version – would anyone care to draw?!

LM: Botanical illustrators – form an orderly queue and send me your details, I’ll pass them on to John! 

There's always a crowd around John's
Veg ID quiz - this one at the 2014
BSBI Exhibition Meeting
Image: L. Marsh
So it sounds as though the “Veg Key 2” is the ideal Christmas present for any keen botanist. But before then we have the BSBI Annual Exhibition Meeting which takes place on 23rd November at the Natural History Museum. 

John, your vegetative ID quiz, and the help table where people can bring along difficult live or pressed specimen for you and other expert botanists to identify, have become firm Exhibition Meeting favouritesWill you be there this time?

JP: Of course! It’s the big winter social event for every botanist, is it not? Always fun to puzzle over obscure plant specimens and you never know what someone might bring.

LM: Great, I suspect your stand will be even busier than usual this time. Thank you for telling us about the second edition of the Vegetative Key to the British Flora – and many thanks to you and Eric for producing it!

John (in background) hunting for
non-flowering rosettes of lizard
orchid (in foreground)
Image courtesy of J. Poland
So at this stage dear readers, you’ll be wondering how you can get your hands on a copy of this amazing new book: there’s a flyer here with details of how to order the book and take advantage of the pre-publication offer. 

Unlike the new BSBI Handbook Gentians of Britain and Ireland and the forthcoming Grassland plants of the British and Irish lowlands which have special offers exclusive to BSBI members, John and Eric are very kindly opening up their special offer to all botanists, whether or not they are BSBI members. 

So if you’d like to order your copy at the special price of £19.50 inclusive of postage (compared to the RRP of £25 excluding postage), just head over to the Veg Key webpage, scroll down and use our secure PayPal facility. 

And once you have your copy, why not get in touch and let us know what you think about it? Or send us a photo of you and your botanical colleagues using the new Veg Key? Like the one below - students on the LUBG 'Botany for Beginners' course all using Veg Key 1st ed to get started with plant ID!

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Grassland plants of the British & Irish lowlands: interview with co-author Pete Stroh

There’s a major new BSBI publication in the offing. Grassland plants of the British and Irish lowlands: ecology, threats and management will be published this autumn and BSBI members are able to benefit from an exclusive offer which will save them £10 compared with the RRP of £35.

There are six authors behind the new book: Pete Stroh and Kevin Walker from BSBI; Stuart Smith from Natural Resources Wales (NRW); Richard Jefferson and Clare Pinches from Natural England; and Tim Blackstock, ex-NRW and now honorary lecturer at Bangor University. I spoke to lead author Pete Stroh and asked him to tell us a bit more about ‘Grassland plants’.

LM: Pete, the new book is just over 400 pages long and covers 109 species considered to be of greatest conservation concern in the lowlands. How long have you and colleagues been working on the book and how did you select which plants to look at?

Image: Bob Gibbons
PS: Well, it all began long before I was working for the BSBI, so it’s at least seven years in the making. The original team, which included Stuart, Kevin, Richard and Tim, but also Carrie Rimes (NRW) and Chris Preston (ex-Centre for Ecology & Hydrology), got the ball rolling about 10 years ago, following the publication of the GB Red List. The Red List was able to compare two Atlas periods, and one of the main findings to come out of the analyses was the number of ‘widespread decliners’ - species that we imagined were doing OK, but actually were not faring at all well, such as Field Gentian. 

Many of these widespread decliners are featured in the Grassland plants book, and we also included some that were assessed as being of ‘Least Concern’ in the Red List, such as Moonwort or Bog Pimpernel, because they were known to have undergone considerable declines in the lowland parts of their range. Although lots is known about conservation management and restoration of lowland grassland in Britain, there isn’t much published information on the management requirements of individual grassland species. 

The main objective of this book was to assemble in one place all the relevant grey and peer-reviewed literature for our most threatened lowland grassland species so that they might be conserved more effectively in the future. I must also mention that although there are six authors, BSBI members indirectly contributed massively via the plant records they have sent in over the years, and many County Recorders and BSBI expert plant referees either co-authored or made a valuable contribution to individual accounts.

Miltary orchid
Image: Leif Bersweden
LM: Each species account gives a huge amount of detail: identification, typical habitat, biogeography, ecology, known and potential threats, and management requirements, all illustrated with colour images and BSBI distribution maps. Could you give us an example of one of the plants you focus on and what we might learn about it from reading the book?

PS: Gosh, that’s a difficult one! I’m not sure I can pick just one. The species we write about are so varied – orchids, sedges, cat’s-ears, cudweeds, etc.! I hope that many will find the tips for differentiating similar-looking species useful. They combine loads of different sources, as well as tapping in to personal experience. 

The sections on ecology were probably the most challenging to write, as we’ve tried to incorporate all that is known about a species using grey and peer-reviewed literature, meaning you should not have to trawl through loads of reference books and obscure journals in order to know its most important pollinators, or the longevity of seed in the soil, if it’s a larval foodplant for any rare invertebrates, or how it is dispersed. 

You can learn about where a species grows, what it grows with, and most importantly, we feel, read tips on how to ensure that it persists and thrives at a site.

Mountain pansy
Image: Laurie Campbell
LM: It sounds as though the book will be extremely useful to a wide range of people, from land managers to professional ecologists and consultants, to anybody with an interest in, or responsibility for, the care and conservation of our wild flowers.

PS: Yes, I hope so! I see it as a reference book that will actually be useful and read! It condenses a huge amount of information into what are essentially over 100 ‘mini biological floras’ which are, I hope, readable and practical, and are as much use to someone who has one or more of the plants on their land and wants to know more about them, to an academic, to a restoration ecologist. There’s something there for everyone!

LM: I see that there is a foreword by George Peterken – can you give us a taste of what he says?

Bog pimpernel
Image: Pete Stroh
PS: Well, as many will know, George is a bit of a legend in the conservation world, known originally for his work on woodland ecology, but he’s also an expert on meadows too, and many other things beside. So it was great for him to agree to write the foreword. 

It’s kind of difficult to distil what he says into a few sentences, but in essence, he makes the point that although it appears to be superficially simple to create a floriferous meadow, in many cases ancient grassland is as impossible to recreate as ancient woodland, and so keeping and maintaining existing herb-rich grasslands should be the priority, especially because that is where many of the species described in the book will survive best. 

He also makes the important point that if someone wants to try and create new grassland, that the best place for this is next to old grassland, and crucially, I think, that planning woodland and grassland habitat restoration together enables some of the natural interactions between the habitats we see as separate, but which would naturally be more connected. I quoted that last bit – much too eloquent and thoughtful for me.

Wood crane's-bill
Image: Stuart Smith
LM: You're too modest! The BSBI Science Team – working with colleagues in other organisations - is building up a superb portfolio of publications. The England Red List, on which you were lead author, is a popular title available for sale from Summerfield Books and the pdf showing statuses of the plants on the list is always among the Top Ten most popular free downloads from the BSBI website. It opened our eyes to the fact that some of the wild flowers that used to be common across the English lowlands – such as harebells, wild strawberries and common rock-rose – are now categorised as Near Threatened. 

Then in 2017 there was the Threatened Plants book – here’s the interview we did with lead author Kevin Walker. And that’s before we say anything about your input into our plant distribution Atlases, or the many scientific papers which bear your and Kevin’s names – some examples here and here. You guys are incredibly prolific!

Lizard orchid
Image: Sarah Lambert
PS:  We try our best to use the plant records that BSBI members provide in order to make a difference, and to ensure that the results of our findings are as accessible as possible for others to use. What we do is part of a collective effort, and it’s incredible really just how much our Society achieves – we certainly punch above our weight, and really that’s down to the County Recorders, expert plant referees and the hundreds (thousands?) of BSBI members who go out recording. It’s also a tribute to David Pearman, who initiated the Science Team over 10 years ago. 

I must also mention BSBI Database Officer Tom Humphrey, who does so much behind the scenes and is the rock upon which our outputs are based, and thank the organisations who sponsored the writing and publication of this book. Natural Resources Wales were incredibly generous, as were the National Trust, and we also received support from Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Wild Flower Society, Floodplain Meadows Partnership, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation.

LM: Yes, many thanks to all those organisations for their generosity. Pete, thank you very much for talking to us about the forthcoming Grassland plants book. We’d like to congratulate you and all your fellow co-authors for the years of hard work that have gone into this new title. Can’t wait to see the book once it’s published!

Sticky catchfly
Image: Bob Gibbons
The dedicated webpage for the Grassland plants book is here and it will be available to buy at the RRP of £35 + P&P from Summerfield Books and other natural history book-sellers as of 1st December but BSBI members can save money by taking advantage of this exclusive offer: click here to land on the members-only area of the BSBI website (you'll need to have your password to hand) and you will save £10 on the cost of the Grassland plantsbook.

If you haven't yet joined BSBI, you won’t be able to benefit from this special offer, so 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

October really is the ideal month in which to join BSBI if you haven't already! The special offer on the Grassland plants book runs until the end of November and of course if you join BSBI after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts in January and runs until the end of 2019. This week we are telling you about the other BSBI titles due for publication this autumn such as the new Gentians Handbook and about the savings on offer to BSBI members. Watch this space!

Tuesday 24 September 2019

BSBI Handbook #19 Gentians of Britain & Ireland: interview with co-author Tim Rich

Tim Rich measuring autumn felwort
Oxwich, 2018
Image: Naomi Rich
There’s a new addition to the series of BSBI Handbooks: Handbook #19 Gentians of Britain and Ireland is due to be published this autumn.

BSBI members will be able to benefit from an exclusive introductory offer of £12.50 (plus P&P) which will save them £5 compared the RRP of £17.50.

There are two co-authors behind this new book: Tim Rich, author or co-editor of many prestigious BSBI publications, such as the Plant Crib and Handbooks on Crucifers, on Whitebeams and on British Northern Hawkweeds; and Andy McVeigh, joint County Recorder for Buckinghamshire. 

I spoke to Tim and asked him to tell us a bit more about Gentians of Britain and Ireland.

Derek Hill with trumpet
gentians, 2008
LM: Tim, the new book is 180 pages long and covers 18 species and four hybrids in the Gentian family (Gentianaceae). When did you and Andy start working on the book?

TR:  The idea for a BSBI gentian identification Handbook came to me when Derek Hill showed me the trumpet gentian Gentiana acaulis on the North Downs in 2008 – it had been wrongly identified as G. clusii - and I thought the gentian would make a stunning book cover; if you have a cover you need a book to go inside! 

With the ups and downs of life, nothing further happened until I was snowed in by the Beast-from-the-East in February 2018 – to my surprise the draft was completed 10 days later. 

That sounds a little glib, but the draft was built on the pioneering work of Noel Pritchard on Gentianella and Frances Ubsdell on Centaurium and integrated the additional published and unpublished work we’d done with so many other collaborators over the last 26 years. We took another year to finish it off together, Andy being very good at sorting out my inconsistencies!

Andy measuring dune gentians
at Pembrey, 2003
LM: Could you give us an example please of one of the species you cover and what we can expect to find out from the new Handbook about its identification, distribution and current status?

TR: The two main changes are in Centaurium where the intermediate centaury C. intermedium is now accepted as a species as demonstrated by Ubsdell in the 1970s, and in the Gentianella amarella group. 

As an example of the latter, whilst looking at the wider European context of Gentianella uliginosa, our studies with Gerrard Oostermeijer and co-workers showed that the British plants previously referred to G. uliginosa are in fact a new endemic Dune gentian G. amarella subsp. occidentalis. This is an annual, with few internodes and out-curved, unequal sepal lobes, restricted to dune slacks in Wales and England. 

Surveys by Lyn Evans in 2019 (too late for the Handbook) are showing it is now only present in worryingly small quantities.

Coastal grasslands at Farr, Bettyhill, Sutherland
LM: You must have visited a lot of locations across Britain and Ireland in the course of your research. Are there any that particularly stand out in your memory?

TR: The wonderful coastal grasslands of Sutherland makes your heart soar with sheer joy at the sight of sheets and sheets of field gentian Gentianella campestris and northern felwort Gentianella amarella subsp. septentrionalis amongst the other treasures. 

Who needs tropical rain forest? 

LM: How about herbaria – did you also look at herbarium specimens?

Specimen of Willow gentian
Gentiana asclepiadea
Natural History Museum, London
TR: We’ve been measuring material and compiling data from herbaria since 1993 – so far I think we have used material from at least 36 herbaria in Britain, Ireland and Europe. 

These specimens were essential to help assess the variation within species and their distributions. 

One lesson learnt was that measurements of herbarium material do not match measurements of fresh material, due to shrinkage. 

LM: Illustrations are an important part of any BSBI Handbook and I see that Gentians of Britain and Ireland is illustrated in full colour throughout. Who provided the drawings and photographs?

TR: No point in having a gentian Handbook without colour!  Andy and I have taken the bulk of the photographs ourselves, but we have also used some lovely ones from other people such as the spring gentian Gentiana verna cover photo by Jonathan Mullard. 

Seaside centaury Centaurium littorale
There is a lovely painting of marsh gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe by Pat Donovan which she did for me as a memory of Ashdown Forest. The line drawings are mine – functional and accurate but not beautiful. 

LM: Ooh I think you're being a bit hard on yourself there Tim! Example on the left so people can make up their own minds... And I imagine there are BSBI distribution maps for each species?

TR: There are pre/post 1987 maps indicating the general distributions but these will shortly be superseded by the Atlas 2020 maps. With hindsight, the size of the maps in the handbook is probably too small to read!

LM: Tim, thank you very much for talking to us about the forthcoming Handbook. We’d like to congratulate you and Andy for all the hard work that have gone into this new title. Can’t wait to see the book once it’s published!

Visitors to this year’s BSBI Exhibition Meeting at the Natural History Museum on 23rd November have a huge treat in store – we’ll be launching the book there with a presentation from Tim, which builds on the very popular talk about British and Irish gentians that he gave at the 2018 BSBI Recorders’ Conference.

So now you'll want to hear how to get hold of a copy of the new Handbook!

If you are a BSBI member, there is a flyer tucked inside the September issue of BSBI News which is winging its way to you as we speak. It explains how BSBI members can benefit from our exclusive offer and save £5 compared to the RRP. You can either order your copy by post before the end of November or else click here to land on the members-only area of the BSBI website (you'll need to have your password to hand – email me if you’ve forgotten it – don’t forget to include your membership number).

If you are not a BSBI member, you have two options: you will be able to buy the book from Summerfield Books and other natural history book-sellers as of 1st December. Or why not join BSBI and enjoy all the benefits of membership, including this special offer? 

Take a look at this page which 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

October really is the ideal month in which to join BSBI if you haven't already! The special offer on Gentians of Britain and Ireland runs until the end of November. And of course if you join BSBI after 1st October, you get three "free" months and then your subscription starts "properly" in January 2020 and runs until the end of 2020. Over the next few days, we will also be telling you about the other BSBI titles due for publication this autumn and about the savings on offer to BSBI members. Watch this space!