You may be wondering what happened to the samples that were sent in as part of the powdery mildew citizen science scheme. Over the past month or so, I have been working with these samples with Waheed, so look no further than this update to find out! Continue reading
Last week two intriguing photographs of an orchid from Smigies in the Akamas peninsula, Pafos, Cyprus arrived in my in-box as an identification query to RNG herbarium. The plant was growing under pine trees. The photographs were taken in March 2014 (Fig. 1) by Andreas Lambrianides and I was asked for an ID.
Mystery orchid photo 1
Mystery orchid photo 2
The powdery mildew citizen science scheme was launched in mid-May. Since then samples have been received from as far north as Moray, Scotland, to the south coast around Portsmouth. Such a range shows, on a small scale the great abundance of powdery mildews, and will help to gain a truly representative overview of the pathogen in the UK.
After morphological analysis the potential powdery mildew species have been narrowed down with the results below.
Fungus: Potential Athrocladiella mougeotii Host: Lycium barbarum (Goji berry)
Extraction of the fungal DNA has begun and we are close to gaining sequence data for these species. This data will then allow for comparison with a vast library of other such DNA sequences and an accurate identification to be made.
Fungus: Potential Erysiphe knautiae Host: Knautia sp.
As I am sure you are all aware, it is Wimbledon fortnight! And of course, it would not be Wimbledon without rain (Saturday is not looking very promising according to the Met office) and decent amounts of strawberries! And by decent I mean 28,000 kg of strawberries, according to the official Wimbledon page.
My army of Strawberries…
(Elsanta, if anyone is wondering. Also, very tasty…)
This extraordinary quantity of strawberries comes in all shapes and sizes and that is precisely the sort of thing I find interesting. With my primary focus in botanical morphometrics it would have been surprising if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to investigate this further. Morphometrics goes much further than simple measurements and comparisons. It is a collection of tools that can help explain biological variation focusing on shape and sometimes size.
To satisfy my curiosity, I went sampling (some people may call this “going to Sainsbury’s for strawberries” but I will insist on calling it sampling!) and picked up three different cultivars to study further. I have already noted just how diverse the shapes and sizes are even in the same punnet, and with the literature suggesting high variation depending on a range of factors (for example position of the fruit on the plant) this is shaping up to be a challenging exercise. I am currently collecting all the data I can from the strawberries, using everything in my disposal, from calipers to beakers full of water (thank you Archimedes!) and I am looking forward to the data analysis stage.
It’s tough working with strawberries… (Always sample more than you need.)
Next time you enjoy some strawberries take a moment to really look at their diverse and wonderful shapes. Last but not least, as a botanical twist: even though they are called “-berries” they are technically fleshy receptacles and the actual fruits are the little “seed-like” structures (called achenes). For a more thorough botanical look into strawberries do visit the Botanist in the Kitchen blog, which has a wonderfully engaging and detailed post on them.
Plant Life of South West Asia 8 Conference
The conference was held at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. RBGE, that has hosted the PLoSWA symposium on two previous occasions, in 1970 and 1985. RBGE is a world-renowned centre for plant science and education. Lectures, meetings and workshops took place in the main science buildings of the garden.
The PLoSWA conference (Plant Life of South West Asia) in Edinburgh 1- 5 July 2013 was attended by 123 participants from more than 30 different countries and comprised 14 Symposia with 72 lectures as well as 51 poster presentations. I have met and talked to many new scientists from different countries. Continue reading
One of the roles of the University of Reading Herbarium (RNG) is to support the activitites of research students, by providing material, which may be sampled under supervision. While Sue Mott (RNG Deputy Curator) was looking for a specimen for Widad Aljuhani, who is conducting PhD research on developing molecular tools for identification of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) cultivars, she came across this slightly unusual specimen in the North African date palm folder (pictured below). One of the aspects of Widad’s project is to include date palm cultivars from other countries, to look for similarities at the molecular level. Continue reading
This morning I was lucky enough to find a sealed envelope waiting for me on my desk. I had an idea and hope of what it may contain, and was far from disappointed…
In mid-May of this year the Powdery Mildew Survey was launched: a project run jointly between the University of Reading and the RHS to help to form a more complete picture of powdery mildew presence in the UK and to develop cutting-edge, molecular identification techniques.
Figure 1: Powdery mildew survey ‘flyer’. This has been disseminated at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as well as shows in Birmingham and the upcoming Hampton Court Flower Show
Within the envelope were samples of powdery mildew infected plant material all the way from Dollar, a small town near Stirling in Scotland. Continue reading
Posted in PhD research, Public Engagement with Science, RHS research
Tagged Ascomycota, Citizen Science, Erysiphales, Fungal identification, Fungi, Gardening Survey, Oli Ellingham, Oliver Ellingham, Pathology, Plant Pathology, Powdery Mildew, RHS, Royal Horticultural Society, Survey