Thursday, 30 December 2021

British & Irish Botany: issue 3.4 published

Strawberry Tree overhanging the water:
Upper Lake, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Image: R. Hodd 
We've just pressed 'publish' on the latest issue of British & Irish Botany, BSBI's online, Open Access scientific journal. This is the final issue of 2021 and features five papers - over to Editor-in-Chief Ian Denholm to tell us more.

"Several papers published previously in British & Irish Botany have helped to elucidate the origins of our flora through combining knowledge of present-day distributions with considerations of history and pre-history, and even folklore and mythology. Opening papers to the current issue apply such a multidisciplinary approach to two of the most iconic members of the British and Irish flora. 

"Strawberry Tree Arbutus unedo is one of the so-called ‘Lusitanian’ species occurring disjunctly in western Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, and whose origins have been hotly debated. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington (BSBI’s new President-elect!) and Nick Scott present compelling evidence that Arbutus, in County Kerry at least, was introduced by copper miners arriving in Ireland in the late Neolithic. Coupled with Micheline’s other research on western Ireland specialities, this reinforces a likelihood that each of the Lusitanian species, far from having a homogeneous phytogeographical origin, has an idiosyncratic story to tell.

Mistletoe in fruit
Image: J. Briggs

"On a seasonal note, Jonathan Briggs reviews in detail the biology, range, uses and conservation status of mistletoe, Viscum album. As one of the leading world authorities on this species, Jonathan is well placed to attempt to disentangle occurrences that are native from one resulting from its widespread cultivation (to support its traditional role in Christmas festivities!). Interestingly, despite being once vilified as a noxious pest of cultivated orchards, one of the significant threats to the survival of mistletoe in the wild is considered to be such orchards falling into disuse.

"Returning to an Irish theme, Dan Minchin and colleagues document the expansion of a colony of Water-soldier Stratiotes aloides on the shore of Lough Derg, County Galway. The colony was monitored over 13 years by surface observations supplemented by satellite images and a GPS-enabled drone – tasks that are complicated by most emergent plants descending below the surface during winter.

Tournefort's Willowherb on the right;
an intermediate hybrid on the left.
Image: P. Leonard 
"Willowherbs Epilobium spp. are well known for their propensity to hybridise. BSBI expert plant referee Geoffrey Kitchener and colleagues report on new hybrid combinations for Britain involving a non-native, strikingly large-flowered subspecies of Square-stemmed Willowherb E. tetragonum subsp. tournefortii that is established on roadsides in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. Hybrids between the native subspecies of E. tetragonum with other Epilobium taxa are very well documented, but those involving the newcomer subspecies are proving distinctive and noteworthy.

"In the final paper, Alastair Fitter and colleagues, including BSBI Head of Science Kevin Walker, detail the occurrence and ecology of the very local Gingerbread Sedge Carex elongata in Yorkshire, paying particular attention to a recent and substantial increase of this plant at Askham Bog near York. This expansion is not only welcome but also topical given that BSBI participated in a recent successful campaign to oppose a housing development in close proximity to the nature reserve".

So, another jam-packed issue with something for everyone. British & Irish Botany is free to read (and free for authors to publish in) and there's no log in required - just head over here to start enjoying the latest issue and then why not browse our archive? We are now accepting submissions for the first issue of volume four in 2022, so why not get in touch if you are thinking of contributing? Meanwhile, a very Happy New Year from all of us here at British & Irish Botany!

Friday, 17 December 2021

Around the World in 80 plants: discount offer for BSBI members

In the January 2021 issue of BSBI News, our membership newsletter, Clive Stace - BSBI's Book Reviews Editor and author of the New Flora of the British Isles - reviewed Around the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori. 

Clive referred to "the excellence of the text and its major contribution to our appreciation and understanding of trees. Very highly recommended to all plant lovers".

Now Jonathan Drori, a longstanding BSBI member, has published a follow-up book, Around the World in 80 Plants, which was short-listed recently for Waterstone's Book of the Year. 

Jonathan's publishers, Laurence King Publishing, said:

"In his follow-up to the bestselling Around the World in 80 Trees, Jonathan Drori takes another trip across the globe, bringing to life the science of plants by revealing how their worlds are intricately entwined with our own history, culture and folklore. 

"From the seemingly familiar tomato and dandelion to the eerie mandrake and Spanish ‘moss’ of Louisiana, each of these stories is full of surprises. Some have a troubling past, while others have ignited human creativity or enabled whole civilizations to flourish. 

"With a colourful cast of characters all brought to life by illustrator Lucille Clerc, this is a botanical journey of beauty and brilliance".

Lawrence King Publishing are offering a 35% discount to any BSBI members wishing to purchase a copy of Around the World in 80 Plants. If you are one of our c3,500 members, please visit the password-protected members-only area of the BSBI website and you will find instructions on how to claim your discount. Email me if you have forgotten your password. 

If you are not yet a BSBI member: claiming discounts on selected botany books is one of the many benefits of membership, so why not treat yourself? With our new online membership form and Direct Debit facilities (£ sterling or euros), it has never been quicker and easier to join our growing ranks and start enjoying all these benefits

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Blown away: December report from BSBI President Lynne Farrell

Cotoneaster full of berries - great for the birds!
All images on this page by L. Farrell
"The number of people attending the on-line meetings in late November has been very encouraging, and I would like to reiterate the vast amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to run these events, which we have all enjoyed. 

"Thanks go to our staff and volunteers. 

"If you were unable to attend, all the videos and exhibits from the Annual Exhibition Meeting and the Scottish Botanists’ Conference are available now, and you can find them by visiting the webpages and clicking on the links. 

"I hope that you have all survived the recent storms. Arwen reeked far more damage in the north-west than predicted and some villages in the Lakes are still without power. 

"Arnside did not have power cuts but many of the large specimen trees in the area have been flattened, partly due to the shallow roots on the limestone rocks and partly due to the unusual north-easterly direction of the wind whistling down the valleys. 

"The image on the left shows a large Beech which 'dominoed' an Oak and a heritage Pear Tree in a nearby local nature reserve. 

"Some neighbours had a lucky escape (see image below right) when the ancient Corsican pines were prostrated, although the tree with the raven’s nest remains standing. As I type this, Storm Barra is now making its attack and it remains to be seen what effect that has produced in the morning light.

"Owing to unreliable internet connections, I was unable to join the National Biodiversity Network's 2021 conference held recently but will be able to catch up with the recorded proceedings soon. It was an interesting programme, and I was a bit blown away myself as I was made an honorary member of the NBN Trust

"What else lies in store for us all before the end of the year? Small gatherings of families and friends over the festive period should go ahead this time, and I hope you all have a Happy Christmas. Please join in the New Year Plant Hunt from 1-4 January 2022 and let us hope we do not get totally blown away by it all".