Sunday, 19 January 2014

End of an era: John Bailey's retirement.

Clive Stace, John Bailey, Richard Gornall
and visiting researcher Qingbo Gao
Image: L. Marsh
Biology Dept staff at University of Leicester got together last week to hold a small leaving-party for John "Professor Knotweed" Bailey

Friends and colleagues, current and former PhD students, and of course the Herbarium Team, all assembled to hear Head of Dept. Dr. Iain Barber talk us through John's time at University of Leicester, and his many achievements. 

Prof Clive Stace came over from East Anglia (yes, Clive has moved house, so sadly VC55 is now Staceless except in book form) to join in the many glowing tributes to John. 

Stuart Desjardins, Clive Stace and John Bailey
Image: L. Marsh
There was so much to fit in - we heard the twists and turns of John's career; how he started out as a 'Wyggy boy' * (just like David Attenborough) before taking up his first post at the University - but as a medical technician rather than a botanist! Then he left, retrained, came back... 

We heard about Anne Conolly, and about John's PhD students, like Stuart Desjardins and Cat Pashley. Clive Stace (past President of BSBI) thanked John for his contribution to botany, which included long service as Secretary of BSBI Meetings Committee. And JP himself said a few words about Japanese Knotweed - no surprises there!  
Pat Heslop-Harrison (in white shirt) at John Bailey's leaving-do
Image: L. Marsh

John will still be joining us on fieldtrips for Module 2 of the Plant ID class, which resumes next month. 

Maybe now he has more free time, he will be able to come out on more BSBI VC55 field meetings and John: how about writing a guest Blogpost for us, telling us more about your botanical career and experience of botany in Leicestershire & Rutland? And please include your story about Anne Conolly at Kew ;-)

Clive Stace in the Herbarium, University of Leicester
Image: L. Marsh
I spotted Pat Heslop-Harrison, editor of Annals of Botany, in the crush around the buffet - apparently the entire contents of a special issue of AoB (on pollinators) are being made available free of charge for one month. More details here where you can also click on the link in the list on right (Blogs by BSBI members)  to see Pat's excellent AoB Blog.
After the leaving-do, Clive came into the Herbarium and the image (on left) shows him looking at the specimen of Spiranthes spiralis which he and a friend collected on a June day in 1953, when Clive was just 14 and the plant was more frequent. Every herbarium sheet tells a story

John Bailey and former PhD student Cat Pashley
Image: L. Marsh
Note the photograph on the Herbarium wall of Tom Tutin  (just behind Clive's shoulder). Clive succeeded Tom as Herbarium Curator, and then Richard Gornall took over when Clive retired. That's quite a trio of eminent botanists, and each one is a BSBI past President. No wonder botany is thriving in Leicestershire - we are all standing on the shoulders of these giants!

    * Wyggeston Boys Grammar School in Leicester - they don't make schools like that any more. I started at Wyggy Girls the same year that John left the nearby Boys School and can confirm that ALL Wyggestonians, male and female, were encouraged to take a keen interest in science, both in school and in their free time. 

Worked out ok for John Bailey and David Attenborough - our Wyggy Boys done good! 

Friday, 17 January 2014

More dates for your diary

Hoping to see lots of you tomorrow at the Cryptogams in Hambleton meeting, starting at noon, but here are some more dates for your diary: 

1. Steve Woodward is putting together the next issue of the fabulous Leicestershire & Rutland Recorder. Copy deadline is 15th February, so if you want to send a contribution, then you'd better start writing! Sampler available as a pdf on our Google page 

Recorders Conference 2013
Image: K. Field
2. The annual Recorders Conference is coming up, organised for the second year by Nathalie at the Wildlife Trust. Here's the info she sent us: 

This event will be held on Saturday 22nd February 2014, at the Rothley Centre, Mountsorrel Lane, Rothley, Leicestershire (close to the village centre). The programme allows for long tea and lunch breaks so that those attending have plenty of time to view the various stands and talk to others. Also, as lunch is NOT provided, a long break will allow for those who do not bring their own food to venture out to the nearby fish and chip and other shops/pubs. The event is FREE, but those wishing to attend MUST book a place. Contact Nathalie Cossa at the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust either by email or telephone 0116 2487362.

This was an excellent event last year, so if you are interested in biological recording in Leicestershire and Rutland, you should try to come along. And yes, the BSBI group will be there... I've uploaded the programme to our Google page - email us at if you can't access it. These dates are also on our VC55 calendar - please let me know if the link doesn't work for you.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

New Year's Plant Hunt - the results

Tim Rich has just finished collating Plant Hunt records from across Britain and Ireland - see his results here 
Sonchus asper seen by Diane in Ratby -
only S. oleraceus seen in the city
Image: D. Mattley

And the winners - not that this was a competition ;-) are (pause for drum-roll):

With 66 species each - it was a tie between Tim Rich's team in Cardiff and the fabulous VC55 team! Well done, everybody. Tim accepted 66 of our records - see note here as to his criteria for selection - and I should point out that he had far fewer people on his team in Cardiff than we did in Leicester. So Tim is the real winner, I think - most species per recorder per VC and he got us all out enjoying botany in mid-winter.

Looking forward to next year's Plant Hunt, but first - a year of botany in VC55, kicking off with our meeting on 18th January in Hambleton, Rutland to look at cryptogams. Assemble at 12 noon as near as possible to Hambleton Church - parking on nearby road verge around grid ref SK 900 075. As always, contact me if any queries or if you need, or can offer, a lift from Leicester. A lift is also available from Sutton Bonington.

And again - well done, VC55!

Posted by Louise

We have set up a doodle to arrange car sharing: just indicate if you would like to come and leave a note if you can offer or need a lift. 

Posted by Uta

Friday, 3 January 2014

Tim Rich comments on recording naturalised plants.

Many thanks to Plant Hunt co-ordinator Tim Rich, who responded to our query about recording naturalised plants in Maggie's wildlife garden with this comment - cut and pasted verbatim:  

The herb garden in Maggie's wildlife garden, Knighton
Image: M. Frankum
"With all recording, you have to ask what does the information tell you.  Plants naturalising in a wildlife garden is not very surprising; if it was in my garden and I had planted it originally I wouldn't record them, or we would have lots of rare hawkweeds and extinct species like Bromus interruptus, Filago gallica etc recorded for Cardiff.

As records get copied, summarised and stripped of original details they are bound to get misinterpreted in the future as being naturalised.

"The information that is useful is to know is what was sown originally so if they spread outside the garden locally (despite tidy neighbours) you know the source.  So record them and keep the details until you need to explain other records, but don't put them in distribution databases." 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Final total of plants in flower in VC55?

Viola arvensis naturalised in graveyard
Highcross, Leicester
Image: R. Bijalwan
It looks as though our VC55 records are all in now - but please note that, due to bad weather in some parts of the country, the Plant Hunt organisers have extended the deadline - final day to get out and record is now Sunday 5th January. But max 3 hours in field per recorder please, or else our results will not be comparable with other counties.

So in VC55, as well as the 63 species we recorded on Sunday in Leicester (Soar Lane/Highcross area and the old Wolsey Sock Factory) we have the following records:

From Russell in Stoneygate/Evington: Calendula officinalis, Helleborus foetidus, Meconopsis cambrica, Erigeron karvinskianus and Primula x polyantha

The veg plot in Maggie's wildlife garden, Knighton
Image: M. Frankum
From Jack in Barlestone/Bosworth: most species also seen by main group but one addition from Jack's second foray, completing his 3 hours in the field. He saw Typha sp. but I haven't yet received the photo/specimen. We are all being strict about this - as on our local meetings, it's not enough for one of us to think they've seen something - either several of us agree in-situ or we take a specimen and/or a photo.   

So current total is still 68.

But what do we think about the plants Maggie (in Knighton) is finding naturalised around her wildlife garden? 

Urban plants often seen through wire netting!
Image: R. Bijalwan
She recorded Primrose, Green Alkanet, Wild Strawberry and Comfrey in flower, and has pressed some specimens and scanned them into a document with some notes. I've uploaded this to the VC55 Google page so you can all see it. It's called Maggie's plants in flower list for 30.12.2013. VC55 SK596014

So, do we have 68 wild or naturalised plants in flower for the New Year's Plant Hunt, or 72 in total? Over to you - please leave a comment or email us at