Month: December 2015

#AdventBotany Day 5: Walnuts

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Walnut botanical print from Kohler’s Medizinal Pflanzen

In my humble opinion, the hazelnut is OK, but in my stocking I’ll be sure to find some walnuts. Clearly I’m not the only one to put this as the king of the nuts either, as the botanical name, Juglans regia, translates as ‘royal nut of Jupiter’. One myth has the  Roman god Jupiter (also known as Jove) living on walnuts during his time on Earth.

Roman coin showing Jupiter throwing thunderbolts

 

Walnuts have been used medically for centuries. In the ancient herbalist system known as the Doctrine of Signatures, plants with medicinal properties would resemble the part of the body they would be effective at curing. The walnut’s resemblance to a human skull and brain meant that it would be recommended for injuries to the head (for example by treating head wounds with walnut oil). Later remedies expand on the usefulness of walnuts, such as this recommendation by Culpepper:

‘If taken with onions, salt and honey, they help the bites of mad dogs, or poisonous bites of any kind.’

Culpepper’s remedy reported in John Parkinson’s ‘Teatrum Botanicum’, 1640.
Culpepper’s remedy reported in John Parkinson’s ‘Teatrum Botanicum’, 1640.

 

These fruit have turned black with drying and aging, but young, pickled walnuts also turn black.
These fruit have turned black with drying and aging, but young, pickled walnuts also turn black.
Boxed specimens from the Manchester Museum herbarium.
Boxed specimens from the Manchester Museum herbarium.

 

As it grows, the nut is protected by a green, fibrous fruit which splits when the nut ripens in autumn. The hard-outer case protects the rich food reserves inside. These were the produced by the plant and stored within the nut for a young seedling to use upon germination. The flesh of the nut is rich in fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as being a source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Herbarium sheet showing pressed walnut leaves, flowers and developing fruit from the Himalayas in 1881.
Herbarium sheet showing pressed walnut leaves, flowers and developing fruit from the Himalayas in 1881.

The natural range of the walnut tree was throughout North and Central Asia, and into Eastern Europe. The species is thought to be declining in its Central Asian strongholds through grazing, seed collection and timber use. The species has been listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN Red List. However, walnut trees have been planted all across Europe and in the US and are often found in large parks and gardens in the UK as ornamental trees.

 

This blog post is part of the #AdventBotany series hosted by the Culham Research Group at the University of Reading. Get ready for the next installment in the botanical advent calendar for 2015!

References

Edible, an Illustrated reference to the World’s Foods. National Geographic

Culpepper’s Compete Herbal

The Origin of Plants by Maggie Campbell-Oliver

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Advent Botany 2015 – Day 4: Lore of Hazelnuts, Corylus avellana

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By Sophie Marley Purple quality streets, pralines and ferrero rocher are always the first to vanish from chocolate tins during the festive grazing period. Their crunchy moreish hazelnut centres are…

Source: Advent Botany 2015 – Day 4: Lore of Hazelnuts, Corylus avellana

Advent Botany 2015 – Day 3: Galanthophilia

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By Alastair Culham It’s not a heavy metal band, but Galanthophilia sounds as if it could be. It is the name for those with a true love of snowdrops. These tiny plants contain a treatment for …

Source: Advent Botany 2015 – Day 3: Galanthophilia

AdventBotany 2015 – Day 2: Yule Log – a carbon neutral heat source?

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By Alastair Culham The Yule log was traditionally a large branch, trunk or whole tree brought indoors to burn slowly over the Christmas period and in to the New Year.  Currently Yule coincides with…

Source: AdventBotany 2015 – Day 2: Yule Log – a carbon neutral heat source?

Advent Botany 2015, Day1: Balsam Fir – a popular Christmas tree in Canada

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By Dawn Bazely Much of Canada’s landmass is dominated by the boreal forest ecosystem. The  characteristic tree species of the boreal biome are conifers such as pines, firs and spruces. Another bore…

Source: Advent Botany 2015, Day1: Balsam Fir – a popular Christmas tree in Canada

Getting Ready for #AdventBotany – here’s a reprise of 2014

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Last year we ran our first #AdventBotany challenge – @DrMGoesWild and @botanyRNG writing an account each day (with some help from @DawnBazeley and others) through advent of plants associated …

Source: Getting Ready for #AdventBotany – here’s a reprise of 2014

Everything in it’s place

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Of all the parts of the herbarium, our General Flowering Plants collection has had more that it’s fair share of disruption from the University’s programme of building improvements. Work began something like 7 years ago with the renovation of the tower (those crazy Victorian architects!) which meant that the three upper store rooms had to be emptied. From then until now, about half of the General Flowering Plants has been hard-stacked (box, upon box, upon box – about 800 times) and as a result, it’s been very difficult to work with.

Now that we’ve reorganised the herbarium, we finally have a shelf for every box. One of the pleasures of this is that we can now put all the herbarium sheets back in the correct place. As sheets have been returned from loans, exhibitions, events, etc. we have been accumulating ‘lay-away’ boxes with all the sheets arranged inside in taxonomic order and just waiting for the time to go back in. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers (particularly Christine) it’s all getting put safely away in the correct place.