Month: February 2010

Herbarium Films 4

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Here are some more ‘behind the scenes’ videos from the botany stores.

In this first clip, Leander shows you round the area where the liverworts and fungi are stored.  Please excuse the boxes cluttering up this space – they are being temporarily stored here while some maintenance work is being carried out in the top tower room.  The clip ends with a trip upstairs to the mezzanine and the collection of mosses.

This clip shows where the majority of the European flowering plants are stored together with our collection of  exsiccatae (books of dried and pressed plant specimens).

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Herbarium Films 3 – The Library

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In this clip Leander shows you our secret library, hidden behind the cupboards of lichens and crytogams.  All the books in the herbarium library were catalogued onto the John Rylands University Library database and are searchable through their website.  The books are available for consultation and reference and can be viewed, by appointment, at the museum’s Resource Centre.

Herbarium Films 2

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Here are some more short videos shot in the herbarium.

This first clip is taken in what we refer to as the British corridor, although in truth it has more boxes of European flowering plants than British (we do have another corridor referred to as the European corridor which contains exclusively European flowering plants).

In this second clip Leander shows where the Leo Grindon and Algae collections are stored, and shows some examples of interesting specimens from those collections.

Herbarium Films 1

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Over the past week we have been very busy making a series of films to show you behind the scenes of the herbarium at The Manchester Museum.  Although we admit the clips are far from professional, we do feel they have a certain charm…

Leander introducing the herbarium and showing off some of our Charles Darwin specimens.

Leander introduces Charles Bailey, Cosmo Melvill and Leo Grindon – the three main contributors to the herbarium’s collection

Lindsey’s February walk

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A bright, icy cold morning set the scene for my February walk at Etherow Country park, Stockport.  If you’re new to the herbology blog, I pledged to enjoy the seasons changing by going for a walk every month as part of  2010:International Year of Biodiversity.

Part of the lake was frozen so the ducks were all huddled up at one end.   There were lots of people out enjoying the chilly day and children chasing over the bridges at the far end of the lake.  We found spring green shoots of daffs pushing their way up through the frozen soil.  Spring is on its way!

Etherow Country Park was the first country park.  The webpage tells us it was “established in 1968 around an old cotton mill, the park has steadily grown in size and popularity and now attracts over a quarter of a million visitors every year.

“Etherow Country Park is rich in wildlife. The park is home to over 200 species of plants and more than a hundred species of birds have been recorded here.  The park has its own nature reserve which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The wide variety of habitats within the park allow an abundance of wild plants to thrive here. With the exception of mid-winter, plants are easily spotted throughout the year. Look out for flora such as Dog’s Mercury, Wood Anemone, Hedge Woundwort and Common Spotted Orchid, among many others.

Etherow Country Park is certainly worth a visit:

http://www.marple-uk.com/community/etherow2.htm

and so are Yew…

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Brendel model of Taxus baccata – female flower, fruit (aril)

So here is the last of my botanical, Valentine’s Day posts. I admit this last post is a bit tenuous and I do hope you will pardon my pun.

Looking back over the Valentine’s posts I’ve realised I’ve perhaps not altogether gotten into the spirit of Valentine’s Day with all my talk of wars, slavery and exploitation and I’m afraid with such a tenuous link I will be unable to remedy that now.

However, did you know that the wood from the yew is very springy making it the wood of choice for longbow makers?  I’m sure, therefore, that Cupid’s bow would have been made from a yew.

Cupid

This springy quality of yews meant that they were in great demand until bows were eventually replaced with guns. Unfortunately, yew is also a very knotty wood resulting in a lot of wastage, consequently the demand for bowstaves led to the demise of the great Yew forests of Western Europe.  Here at the Manchester Museum our archery collection consists of over 4,000 objects.

Yews that manage to avoid the chop have the potential to live for a very long time.   The Fortingall Yew Tree found in the centre of Scotland, is believed to be at the very least 2,000 years old and possibly as old as 5,000 years making it  the oldest organism in Britain, and maybe the world!

PUN WARNING

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet
,
And so are Yew.

Please note, Yew trees are NOT sweet, in fact they are quite poisonous!

Sugar is sweet…

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Yes, roses can be red, violets are blueish, and sugar is undoubtably sweet to taste.  However, as the Revealing Histories project we took part in a few years ago revealed, life for those involved in the sugar trade has not always been so sweet…

Sugar was produced by enslaved Africans on British-owned sugar plantations in the Caribbean for 200 years from the 1600s. The plantations were immensely profitable and boosted the British economy to the extent that sugar was nicknamed ‘white gold’. Most sugar was exported raw and then refined when it reached Britain. Sugar refineries were discouraged in the West Indies; partly because refined sugar didn’t travel well during long damp ocean voyages, and also to afford maximum protection to British profits, as the refinement process considerably increased its financial value.

Life on the sugar plantations was much more hazardous than in the cotton plantations of the USA. Sugar production involved exhausting  labour and long shifts in high temperature and humidity. Many Africans died within five years of arriving in the West Indies, quickly replaced by the slave trade’s plentiful supply of fresh workers.

Specimens of sugar cane specimen collected by P & J A Sillitoe

Sugar cane, noble cane (English), Ikshu, khanda, sarkara (Sanskrit), Pundia, paunda (Hindi), Poovan karumbu (Tamil) has the botanical name of Saccharum officinarum and belongs to the grass or Poaceae family.  The sugar is found in the stems of the plants, which look rather like bamboo, and can grow up to 6 meters tall.

Undated illustration of Saccharum officinarum from Gardener’s Chronicle, from Leo Grindon collection

Below are two jars of sugar which came from Tate and Lyle Ltd, Liverpool.  These specimens were also used as part of the Revealing Histories project.

Bottled sugar specimens from a collection of Cocoa, Cotton and Sugar donated by Cadbury, Horrocks and Tate in 1923
Saccharum officinarum illustration - Leo Grindon collection
Saccharum officinarum illustration - Leo Grindon collection
Saccharum officinarum illustration - Leo Grindon collection
Saccharum officinarum specimen collected by P & J A Sillitoe