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Spring is (almost) in the air and so we’ve been making plans for the Museum allotment.
Originally posted on Museum Meets:
We’ve grown and given away potatoes, nasturtium, blackcurrants, rhubarb and strawberries. In 2012 we grew sunflowers for a citizen science project and in our shed we put up posters about gardening, nature and food events in Manchester. There is a green roof on the shed. The Allotment has hosted participatory events where children and adults have planted seeds, made bird boxes, pressed apples, watered the beds and there have been many conversations about food and growing. We’ve participated in the Big Butterfly count and seen many earthworms, cabbage flies, aphids, ladybirds and spiders find their way.
By the allotment there is a wildflower area, fenced off by chestnut from an area maintained by the Estates department. One aim of this area was to compare biodiversity between the two planted areas.
The ‘middern’ was a project where contemporary items were buried in a compost bin and their decay was monitored – the resulting objects are on display in the Ancient Worlds gallery.
Aside Posted on Updated on
It’s been a hectic start to 2014 at the herbarium! Following the break for Christmas and New Year we had some fantastic roller racking installed. The racking was salvaged from the Whitworth art gallery following their redevelopment. The room overlooking the Old Quad was cluttered with all sorts of specimens. It was previously home to Algae amongst others in grand old cupboards. It took a while, and a huge moving effort from the team, but after a couple of days we had managed to: temporarily re-house our solander boxes in a temporary makeshift home, clear out the vast runs of journals and books hidden behind shelves and finally we had fully cleared the room ready for the installation team.
Now that the roller racking is installed it allows us to make much more efficient use of the space we have. Our solander box collections can now be stored in a greatly compact way, whilst still allowing access when necessary. There are 8 new shelving units in the roller racking, each with the capacity to store 97 solander boxes. Whilst the permanent occupants of the racking have not yet been decided, the increased storage capacity has allowed us to begin the plans to re-organise the entire collections into a more logical and flowing way
The job of re-arranging our collections has not been an easy one. Lots of number crunching has taken place. The aim is to get all the collections more efficiently organised and to work the boxes that currently take up our work bench space into the collections on the racking. The project will involve each box in the entire collection moving to a new place. So there is going to be a lot of hard work, moving around and re-jigging in the coming months, but it will worth it in the end.
The course I attended (Flowering Plant Families) is run by Cambridge University staff. This is Dr Tim Upson introducing the course at the Botanic Garden, by the lake. We had just seen a grass snake and joked about how plants often get upstaged by animals!
Ranunculaceae is the Buttercup family, which contains many ornamentals. Well known members are the buttercup (obvs), Delphinium, Aquilegia and Thalictrum. The plants are mainly herbs, with a few climbers (Clematis). It has a world wide distribution and plants in this family contain alkaloids – some are poisonous, like Aconitum.
The family name Ranunculaceae is pronounced ran-un-queue –lacey.
A buttercup pulled apart: this family is not characterised by the number of petals and sepals as they are variable. Linking characters for Ranunculaceae: flower parts are free and not fused, and spirally arranged along the elongated receptacle. There are numerous stamens and carpels.
Buttercups are actinomorphic which means they are radially symmetrical, as opposed to zygomorphic (bilaterally symmetrical). Think of a cup and saucer – the saucer is actinomorphic (symmetrical along 3 planes) but the cup is zygomorphic (symmetrical along 2 planes).
The following three illustrations of Hellebore varieties are taken from our cultivated collection. Despite names such as ‘Christmas Rose’, this plant is not in the rose family but the buttercup family. The first is from ‘The Garden’ the monthly magazine of the Royal Horticultural Society, 1879. The second was from another horticultural magazine: Edwards’s Botanical Register by S.T. Edwards & J. Lindley, 1838, and the third illustration was taken from Paxton’s Flower Garden, 1850-53 by J. Paxton.
A herbarium sheet of Anemone nemorosa (wood anemone), from the buttercup family, collected by Lydia Becker in Whalley Wood, April 1864 for the British Botanical Competition. Lydia Becker was a suffragette and was born in Chadderton, Manchester.
Originally posted on FROG BLOG MANCHESTER:
This is by far one of my all time favourite plants. It is fully mature at only 8cm tall and produces vibrant pink flowers 3.5cm long – that’s almost half the size of the plant!
Tillandsia sprengeliana is an unusual miniature epiphyte that is somewhat reminiscent of an artichoke. It grows amongst Brazilian coastal forests and occurs between two regions; Punta Negra and Macae and is most abundant on the island of Cabo Frio in the state of Rio De Janeiro.
It’s all about a specimen of medicinal wood which, last week, was selected by Museum volunteers for a handling table at the hospital in Manchester. It started off as a mystery – just something i pulled out of the drawer – but has been a fascinating tale of where it came from and how it came to the museum. Here are the notes for volunteers.
Bangba for kidney trouble. (EM536152)
This was a bit of a mystery specimen as initially we didn’t know much other than what was written on the label, although this is common in museum stores. Since then I have found out about the collector. The label tells us 5 things.
- Bangba. The box contains some lengths of wood – branches from a tree or shrub. I don’t know what the name of the tree is that this wood comes from. Bangba must be a common name for this wood in Sierra Leone. It would probably have been used by healer (once known as a witch doctor) who would use traditional healing.
- The label tells us it is “for kidney trouble”. We will have to guess how they would have used this specimen – to cure or ease symptoms? The wood might have been chewed raw, or boiled and chewed, or crushed in a pestle and mortar to make a paste. They might have eaten the paste or spread it on their body! It might have been burned and the aroma inhaled.
- The date: 11/2/04 would be 11th Feb 1904. It’s not likely to be 1804 because we have so few specimens that old and so many collected around 1904 (and the writing is the right style for that period). It’s definately not 2004 as I’ve been working at the museum since before then! It is important that collectors write the date in full on each item to prevent any confusion in years to come. The date on a specimen is usually the date it was collected – that is, picked (in the case of a plant).
- Sierra Leone is the country in Africa that this specimen comes from. It’s on the west coast of Africa. We have about 30 other specimens of root, all collected in Sierra Leone by Ridyard: Igie Atah for toothache, Bubi water for piles, Ojo Ologbo for yellow fever or how about Shacoo root for animal passion!
- “Coll.” stands for collected by. The collector was Arnold Ridyard, a Liverpool merchant, who travelled the coast of West Africa from Sierra Leone to Angola accepting donations from, and making purchases from, local Africans in the different countries visited. The World Museum Liverpool website says this about him: Between 1895 and 1916 Arnold Ridyard, a Chief Engineer with the Elder Dempster shipping line, transported over 2000 artefacts from West and Central Africa to the museum. Many of Ridyard’s objects are at World Museum Liverpool.
There is an entry in the botany register for this group of specimens. They seem to have been purchased from a Mr Entwistle by Ridyard, who then presented them to the museum in 1904. (This means the date on the label was the date of donation, not the date of collecting). There is also an entry in the Report of the Manchester Museum Committee 1904-1905: “Arnold Ridyard.- specimens of medicinal roots from Sierra Leone.” So – no longer a mystery! (Although I don’t think they are all roots.)
The wood is robust and can be handled, but visitors should wash their hands afterwards. The box, especially the glass lid is quite delicate. The card edges of the lid can sometimes bend and tear.
Contact the museum to find out where the handling table will be, and the dates.
Last summer I spent a wonderful week in Cambridge, on the Flowering Plant Families course at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. It was a warm sunny week, and around 20 of us sat at microscopes in a classroom, the windows open to let in a summer breeze. We had tea, biscuits and fresh plant material in jam jars around us.
This is the first in a series of plant identification blog posts, based on what I learnt at Cambridge.
One of the simplest plant families to start with is the cabbage family – Brassicaceae (pronounced brass ick ay see).
This is one of the simplest families to recognise as it has distinctive characteristics which are repeated. The characters are
Sepals (calyx): 4
Petals (corolla): 4
Androecium (stamens): 6 (2 short, 4 long)
Gynoecium (carpels): 2 fused
The fruit is a siliqua – a pod like capsule with 2 united carpels.
I pulled the flower apart and laid it out so the parts are easy to see:
This plant family is also called Cruciferae. This name comes from the cross (or crucifix) shape made by the four petals. It is easier to see in some species than others.
It is a family of annuals or perennial herbs, which contain mustard oils (glucosinolates) which give cabbage and Brussels sprouts their strong flavour. Leaves are alternate and can be simple or toothed/lobed.
There are many economic uses – food like cabbage, rocket, broccoli and cauliflower, plus mustard and cress. Oil is obtained from oil seed rape. Other family members are grown as ornamental garden plants, such as honesty, stocks and wallflower.
This is a herbarium sheet in the Manchester Museum of Eruca sativa (rocket). It was collected in St-Anne’s-on-the-Sea, Lancashire by Charles Bailey, one of our big collectors, in 1907. The handwritten number starting with EM, just above the printed label, is the database number we give each of our specimens.
This is a good, simple guide to the parts of a flower http://www.amnh.org/learn/biodiversity_counts/ident_help/Parts_Plants/parts_of_flower.htm