Month: January 2011

Petty spurge: cancer treatment?

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BBC news: garden weed could treat skin cancer.

Top image: Euphorbia peplus, petty spurge.  A pressed plant specimen from the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.  Collected by F C King in 1883 from waste land near Ribchester, Lancashire.  Charles Bailey, a Manchester cotton merchant, then aqcuired it from King (donation? Exchange? Or purchase? – we don’t know) and left it and 330,000 others to the museum on his death in 1925.

Bottom image: illustration of Euphorbia peplus (common name: petty spurge) from the Manchester Museum’s cultivated collection.  This and hundreds of other illustrations, plant cuttings and newspaper clippings were donated to the museum by Leo Grindon’s wife after he died, in 1911.


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Manchester has some new hospitals, just up the road from the Manchester Museum in the University of Manchester.  Botany specimens from the herbarium can be seen on display in the 2nd floor corridor of the new Royal Infirmary.

The showcase celebrates the poetic creativity of a group of 12 people who worked together with the Manchester Museum and nationally acclaimed poet Chanje Kunda.  The group explored their health and wellbeing through a range of fascinating and inspiring activities held at the Museum.  The workshops included object handling and curator-led talks that broadened people’s experience of art and ancient history.

One of the poems inspired by the botany collection:


Green leaves cling on
Failing to fall asunder

Emerging from earth

Growing imperceptibly stronger

The wind blows

Tree arms flutter

Illumination from street light near

I sit and gaze in wonder

On oft’ waking from nightly slumber

What it is about them that please?

I love to look at them and think

We are like trees

Sam Parker


Fern hunting in China

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Thurs 3 Feb / 12.30-1.15pm

at the Manchester Museum

Fern hunting in China 

There are 1500 species of ferns in Yunnan Province, China, compared to 50 in Britain.

Join Yvonne Golding for an illustrated account of the recent British Pteridological Society expedition to China.


More talks and debates at the Manchester Museum

squashed cactus

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look what I found!

It’s called Opuntia tuna, collected in Palma by E. Bourgeau in 1845.  Sadly its not flat enough to go in the new Living Planet gallery as some of the herbarium sheets will be in glass frames.

A beautiful image of the cactus growing in the wild can be seen here.  The image was taken by Shadowshador.  Thanks for giving me permission.


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Today, choosing 50 herbarium sheets to go on display in the new Living Planet gallery.


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Now that Christmas and New Year are over we can look forward to spring.  One of my favourite spring flowers is the Primrose, it always lifts the spirits to see it, even from the car its pale yellow is unmistakeable.  However, not all primroses are this lovely shade.  The Yorkshire Dales has the Bird’s -eye Primrose (Primula farinosa), which is a beautiful pale pink with a yellow eye. 


The north coast of Scotland boasts its very own primrose, Primula Scotica, which I was lucky enough to see this summer in Caithness.  This particular species is endemic to Scotland growing only on the north coast and on Orkney.  It is very specific in its requirements and grows on calcareous sand dunes or machair, coastal limestones and maritime heath.  It needs careful management of its habitat, not too much or too little grazing, to flourish.  I was thrilled to find it and even accosted some total strangers to point it out.  Later in the week we found lots more, many less than three inches tall and a rich deep pink.  The wild flowers of this northern coast are certainly worth the trip.

Christine Walsh