Friday 28 July 2023

Resources for horticulturally-inclined botanists

Tree Lupin naturalised near St. Andrews, Scotland
Image: P. Marks
Many botanists are as interested in horticultural plants as they are in 'wild' plants, whether because they are keen gardeners or because, as our climate changes, an increasing number of garden plants are naturalising and managing to persist in the wild without human intervention. 

This was one of the many fascinating discoveries revealed by BSBI's Plant Atlas 2020 project - more than 50% of the taxa recorded were of non-native species

Many of these are ancient introductions (archaeophytes), often brought over by the Romans, or neophytes, introduced by humans either deliberately or accidentally in the past five centuries. 

Red-hot Poker blooming in Kent
at New Year  2018
Image: D. Steere
Our 'Definitions' page explains a bit more about these terms. 

But increasingly we are noticing garden plants which used to die back in the autumn but are now 'jumping the garden fence' and becoming naturalised between pavement cracks, at the bases of walls, on waste ground... some are even managing to flower in midwinter

Red-hot Poker Kniphofia uvaria, Three-cornered Garlic Allium triquetrum and Fern-leaved Beggarticks Bidens ferulifolia have all been recorded in bloom during recent New Year Plant Hunts.  

Our in-house expert referee on garden plants (accessible only to BSBI members) has never been busier, dealing with ID queries, and of course there are gardening books and websites, but now there is another option available to botanists wanting to take a deeper dive into the identification and understanding of garden plants. 

Books in the Lindley Library
Image courtesy of the RHS

The Royal Horticultural Society's Lindley Library in London holds world-renowned collections of books on horticulture, early printed books and botanical art. 

Their modern collections are available for everyone to access but BSBI members interested in the botanical collection are now invited to sign up as researchers (this is free) and gain access to the RHS reference collection, rare books and the botanical art. 

Groups of botanists can also request a tour of the collection (free but donations invited). That's two great ways to find out more about garden plants. Just email to arrange your visit.

Early printed botanical book
 in the Lindley Library

Image courtesy of the RHS

Some of the upcoming RHS events may also be of interest to botanists. Dr Mark Spencer, BSBI County Recorder for Middlesex/ the London area, is giving a talk on 3rd August about his book Murder Most Florid: inside the mind of a forensic botanist. This is a longer version of the fascinating talk he gave at BSBI's British & Irish Botanical Conference, held last November at the Natural History Museum. 

On 8th August, Sarah Morrish (who exhibited at BSBI's 2017 Annual Exhibition Meeting, the forerunner of the British & Irish Botanical Conference) will be leading a workshop on 'Illustrating Nature: Introduction to Botanical Art in Pen & Ink'. 

Find out more about these events and book your space via this link

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