The Palm Family: Plants with a Heart

The Arecaceae, better known as the palm family, is one of the world’s most iconic plant groups. Comprised of approximately 2600 species across 181 genera (Christenhusz and Byng, 2016), this is a large and diverse family, yet simultaneously one of the most recognisable. Part of the monocot clade in the order Arecales, palms are often seen as symbols of the tropics, however, some may be surprised to learn that there are several species that grow perfectly well in our cool, damp climate here in Britain. Continue reading

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Dryopteridaceae on campus and in the UK

Dryopteridaceae found in The Wilderness on UoR Campus. (Photo by Teri Lim)

Taxonomy

Division Pteridophytes
Class Polypodipsida
Order Polypodiales
Family Dryopteridaceae

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Think outside the Box

Buxus sempervirens in the Harris Gardens, Reading University ©S.Medcalf2017

Buxaceae at Whiteknights

There’s a man buried vertically, head downwards on a hillside called Box Hill near Dorking in Surrey. You could say he was off his head when he died in 1800. No, maybe on his head…

the world is topsy turvy, and I’ll be the right way in the end” (Major Peter  Labellière)

His reasons have a certain resonance in our current topsy turvy, ‘post-truth’ era… Continue reading

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Orobanche hederae – Ivy Broomrape

My last blog was on the common broomrape, Orobanche minor, the only species I had seen on campus in the past few years.  Today I was excited to receive an email from Phöbe, one of the volunteer Friends of the Haris Garden and a very keen Cyclamen grower.  The email included this image of a broomrape growing under the wingnut trees in the Harris Garden.

Mystery Orobanche from the Harris Garden (c) Phöbe Friar 2016

Mystery Orobanche from the Harris Garden (c) Phöbe Friar 2016

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Orobanche minor on Whiteknights campus

Orobanche minor growing on Brachyglottis monroi

Orobanche minor growing on Brachyglottis monroi

Parasitic plants, particularly ones with large and colouful flowers, are always a cause of curiosity from the casual observer, and are generally uncommon enough to exite field botanists. For many years there were numerous flower spikes of Orobanche minor on the Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’ plants in the Chemistry Department car park on Whiteknights campus.  However the Brachyglottis plants became moribund and were removed so I thought we had lost the Orobanche from the area.  Continue reading

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Flying Saucer Hunt

Last July we added White-letter hairstreak to the campus species list. It’s impossible to say whether it was a stray individual (revisiting my photograph it was a pretty beaten up specimen!) or part of a breeding colony on campus. It can persist in quite small colonies, often centred around a single tree as for the Sheffield colony mentioned in this recent Guardian article. The larvae usually start out feeding on flower buds, so white-letter hairstreak prefers more mature and therefore flowering elms. However, it has been recorded subsisting solely on younger growth.

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2015 powdery mildew species review

Alist of all powdery mildew species I have found in 2015 is now available on the Whiteknights biodiversity blog.

Please take a look.

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