The Big Reveal – Our Tropical Phytolith Reference Collection goes live!

I just thought I’d have a little brag, and celebrate the fact that I have produced a tropical phytolith reference collection here at the University of Reading in the TPR lab. The full collection (as it stands until the next PhD student comes to help build it!) contains 152 taxa, sampled from various Herbaria around the world. My thanks go to Prof Jose Iriarté at the University of Exeter for lending me some of his material, as well as Dave Harris at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh who let Dr John Carson sample their herbarium and live specimens. The spread of taxa includes all those denoted as diagnostically useful by Piperno’s 2006 book ‘Phytoliths’ (the bible of tropical phytolith studies) plus some extras which may turn out to be useful.

The online database of our phytolith reference collection is now available on our Palaeobank website. Feel free to take a browse!

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to photograph any of the slides under the microscope yet, but here are some photos of the collection in its lovely new cabinet:

Phytolith ref coll cabinet

Phytolith reference collection cabinet, organised alphabetically by family name


Poaceae draw in phytolith ref coll cabinet

An array of Poaceae reference slides in the collection

All of this means of course that I can now begin working on my fossil phytolith samples, once I’ve finished pollen counting…

by Heather Plumpton 


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