Symbiosis, the book – coming soon on this blog

Symbiosis - art book, cover page

Symbiosis – art book, cover page

We are in the process of digitising the Symbiosis book and will deliver it as a slideshow to this blog soon.

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Dr Freek Bakker visits RNG

Dr Freek Bakker holding one of our Pelargonium specimens from Turkey.

Dr Freek Bakker holding one of our Pelargonium specimens from Turkey.

It was a great pleasure to catch up with Freek Bakker of Wageningen University today.  Freek spent 5 years working with me and Mary Gibby on the NERC funded Taxonomy Initiative in the 1990s/2000s and contributed to a string of papers on Pelargonium systematics, some very early molecular biogeography and phylogeny dating as well as papers bringing together data from three genomic compartments (Nuclear, plastid and mitochindrial).  Freek is now busy with next generation sequencing and has been using 454 and illumina approaches to study DNA from a wide range of herbarium specimens.

He delivered at talk at the Linnean society earlier this week and was kind enough to repeat the talk for interested PhD students at Reading today.

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Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucia by Sarah Ball

Sarah Ball with the final proofs of her new book.

Sarah Ball with the final proofs of her new book.

Reading University Herbarium (RNG) is pleased to announce the publication of Wild Flowers of Eastern Andalucia by Sarah Ball.  Sarah has been a herbarium volunteer for some time but has spent the past three years writing an excellent field guide to the wild flowers of the eastern part of Andalucia covering much of the sunshine coast of Spain and the beautiful mountainous areas inland. Sarah has used our botanical collections extensively to check her plant identifications and to further discover the distribution and variation of the species she describes. The 302 glossy pages include over 700 colour photographs and plant descriptions to plants commonly, or less commonly seen.  The highly portable book includes a helpful glossary at the front that helps a novice user to understand the necessary botanical terms but the text is also supplemented by comments on traditional plant uses that bring the descriptions to life.  We are about to take copies out on our Spanish Field Course and will give feedback on how the students reacted to them as field guides.  The book is published by Browndown Publications and available for sale from the NHBS.


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#MuseumWeek @RNGherb

#MUSEUMWEEK LOGO-1On 24th March 2014 Twitter will start it’s Europe-wide #MuseumWeek event.  Four of the University of Reading museums and special collections will be joining in.

The Herbarium (RNG) – will be hosting students, staff and visitors who will contribute their work and experiences – Do please follow our Twitter account @RNGherb!

M 24 Day 1 – A day in the life of a Herbarium user (#DayInTheLife)
- MSc Plant Diversity -  write about their experience using the herbarium for their assessed mini monograph/ learning plant families etc. @Waheed_Arshad…

T 25 Day 2 – Test your knowledge – which plant family? (#MuseumMastermind)
– To be led by the MSc Plant Diversity group who will choose specimens of  plant families and tweet about diagnostic characters – a challenge in 140 characters or fewer!  They will also be tweeting photos of RNG specimens.

W 26 Day 3 – Living collections – tweet the MSc blogs (‪#‎RUtrop)
- MSc students can each in turn tweet about the plants featured in their tropical blogs & link through – e.g. These are all plants in our living collections that extend the herbarium collections.

T 27 Day 4 – Buildings behind the art (#BehindTheArt)
– Immy Smith, our Symbiosis project artist – will be tweeting about an artist’s experience of the Herbarium facilities based on her use for the Symbiosis project

F 28 Day 5 – Live from Spain – (#AskTheCurator)
- The Curator – Alastair Culham will be tweeting plant images from our Spanish field course and Sue Mott and a team of volunteers will be trying to find specimens of those species in RNG to provide ID and comment

S 29 Day 6 – Museum selfies (#MuseumSelfies)
– a day of people taking photos of themselves in the Herbarium – perhaps with their favourite collection in the background!

S 30 Day 7 – Constraint drives creativity (#GetCreative)
– Immy Smith – the Symbiosis project and its outputs will feature images from the pages of the Symbiosis project book which is currently being completed in the Herbarium.

See also the MERL museum week plans.

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Sundews in Britain


Left to right: Drosera anglica, D. x obovata and D. rotundifolia leaves (Photo by Dr M.)

Some years ago I wrote an account for the BSBI Plant Crib on how to distinguish the three Drosera species that occur naturally in the UK, and around most of the northern hemisphere.  There still remains confusion among them and mis-reporting of the species.  Drosera is very easy to recognise as a genus but many of the species can be more challenging to distinguish when not in flower.  The confusion is made worse by mis-labelled images on the web, some from commercial photo galleries.  A blog by Ryanne Matthias on Catalogue of Life discusses this issue in some detail.

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Herbarium RNG Questionnaire

Tom (on the left) studying pollination biology of the invasive Carpobrotus in southern Spain

Tom (on the left) studying pollination biology of the invasive Carpobrotus in southern Spain

I am a third year undergraduate student at the University of Reading, reading for a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences. My third year project aims to evaluate the current Herbarium RNG website, analyse other Herbaria websites, and subsequently redesign the Herbarium RNG website, using the Content Management System (CMS) used by the University.

As a part of this redesign process, it is both useful and important to have a grasp of the current opinions and attitudes towards the website that I shall be redesigning, and in an attempt to gather these opinions, I have designed a questionnaire for users of the current Herbarium RNG website to complete (Herbarium RNG website).

This questionnaire should take no more than ten minutes to complete, and can be found at

Additional Information for Participants is available to download.

I would be most grateful if you could take the time to complete this survey, as it will greatly enhance the redesign process of the new website, and hopefully make the new site more user friendly.

I thank you in advance for assisting me with my final year project.

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