Specimen of the Day

#AdventBotany Day 16: Cardamom: The Queen of Spices By Maria Christodoulou & Kalman Konyves

Posted on Updated on

By Maria Christodoulou & Kalman Konyves With Christmas approaching quickly, many of you are braving the cold and crowds to complete your Christmas shopping. If you do have time for a break you may enjoy one of the most popular lattes on the high street, a Chai latte. Before we go off at a tangent…

via #AdventBotany Day 16: Cardamom: The Queen of Spices — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 15: A holiday pineapple for the table by Katherine Preston and Jeanne Osnas (The Botanist in the Kitchen)

Posted on Updated on


By Katherine Preston and Jeanne Osnas (The Botanist in the Kitchen) This deep dive into pineapple anatomy is our contribution this year to the very fun Advent Botany essay collection, a celebration of plants that are at least somewhat tangentially connected to the winter holidays. In previous years we’ve contributed essays on figs, peppermint, and…

via #AdventBotany Day 15: A holiday pineapple for the table — Culham Research Group

Also to be found at:

A holiday pineapple for the table

#AdventBotany Day 14: Trading nutmeg and swapping islands By Helen Miller

Posted on Updated on

By Helen Miller Nutmeg in fruit (Photo Nandhu Kumar) On 23rd December 1616 Nathaniel Courthope came into view of Pulo Run, an island situated in the Moluccas (Indonesia), which have been known as the Spice Islands of the East Indies, and is the region from which nutmeg originates. Courthope was the Captain of a trade…

via #AdventBotany Day 14: Trading nutmeg and swapping islands — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 13: Pomegranate, a pharmaceutical view By: Szu Shen Wong and Steve Alexander

Posted on Updated on

By: Szu Shen Wong and Steve Alexander Imageries of the of the Mother and Child are often used in traditional Christmas cards but our modern versions seem to omit a fruit that has Christian symbolism. The pomegranate was often featured alongside the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus in artworks from the 15th century, with…

via #AdventBotany Day 13: Pomegranate, a pharmaceutical view — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 12: Feijoa – Acca sellowiana By Adam Idoine

Posted on Updated on

By Adam Idoine My childhood in New Zealand was punctuated every autumn by a bounty of a sweet, fragrant fruit called feijoas. Our garden, like many of our neighbours’ contained a couple of non-descript evergreen shrubs. Every summer they would develop a display of small white flowers with fleshy petals and brilliant red stamens, promising…

via #AdventBotany Day 12: Feijoa – Acca sellowiana — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 11: A Sloe Christmas by Jonathan Mitchley

Posted on Updated on

By Jonathan Mitchley (Dr M) This is Dr M’s contribution to #AdventBotany for 2017 the fourth fantastic year of this true botanical original originating from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading! The 2017 edition is curated by Dr M’s colleague Dr Alastair Culham. For day 11, ironically as I wrote this post it…

via #AdventBotany Day 11: A Sloe Christmas — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 10: Have yourself a microscopically Merry Christmas

Posted on Updated on

At this time of year, there is always that one person who is impossible to buy a gift for. What do you get a botanist who has everything? Well, how about some microscope slides?

As we’ve been working our way through Manchester Museum’s 15,000 microscope slide collection, I can’t help but imagine some of these as presents.  For starters, there’s all that beautiful paper; no gift is complete without the careful wrapping. Early microscope slides were wrapped in paper to keep the coverslip in place on top of the specimen. Other methods for attaching the coverslip were developed, but some slide preparators continued to use the papers for decoration.

Just imagine the fun your botanical friend could have looking at the finer details of the fruit and veg and sharing their findings over the Christmas dinner. While the word ‘fruit’ in English is used for many sweet-tasting plant parts, its use is much more specific in botany. There are a considerable number of ways by which any aspiring botanist can learn to describe their fruits and distinguish one kind from another. They might offer a slice of soft, juicy, pickled pepo (cucumber) with the cheese, warn fellow diners to take care with the hard stone in their delicious drupe (date), join in the struggle to break into a true nut (walnut) and, my personal favourite, uncover the zesty heperidium (tangerine) at the bottom of their Christmas stocking.  Not forgetting, of course, there is always the chance to put people off their dessert by explaining the intricate way that the highly specialised fig flower structure is visited by wasps and develops into the culinary fruit (technically known as a synconium; I wonder if that would get a good score in Scrabble?) .

A set of slides could be an opportunity to escape another round of charades and escape to some quiet contemplation! Perhaps of the Christmas tree in extraordinary detail. Just imagine the pleasure getting lost for hours in the patterns created by slicing the timber in different directions, with or across the grain. Or maybe a close investigation of a local nativity scene – is that really hay in the manger? Or is it a much scratchier bed of straw?

The fortunate recipient of your microscopical gifts can follow in the footsteps of Mr George Wilks, who was clearly snipping bits off the decorations in 1903. Perhaps he needed to test out a new microscope from Santa.

Ivy: https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/crg/2014-botanical-advent-calendar/


Further reading

Fruit: https://awkwardbotany.com/2014/10/04/22-botanical-terms-for-fruits/ and


Microscope slides http://www.victorianmicroscopeslides.com/history.htm

#Advent botany Day 9: Cultivating Christmas pt. 2: Elf and Wellbeing by Yvette Harvey

Posted on Updated on

By Yvette Harvey Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Kibble Palace. William Goscombe John (1860-1952), The Elf, marble, 1899Who would have thought that the author of Little Women could have had such a significant role in today’s advent blog about plants… For it was Louisa May Alcott who first introduced us to the elf, maker of our beloved…

via #Advent botany Day 9: Cultivating Christmas pt. 2: Elf and Wellbeing — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 8: Cultivating Christmas by Mandeep Matharu & Louise O’Beirne

Posted on Updated on

By Mandeep Matharu & Louise O’Beirne Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ CC BY-SA 2.0As a kid brought up in India, perhaps my earliest memory of Christmas is looking up at one of my teachers dressed up as Santa eagerly distributing presents to the pupils. Yes, even in India we have people putting on big white beards and…

via #AdventBotany Day 8: Cultivating Christmas — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day7: ‘like a Shoshana among the thorns’ – by Robert Blackhall-Miles

Posted on Updated on

By Robert Blackhall-Miles FLS Last year for advent botany I wrote about the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) and its links to the Christmas story and the song of Solomon. This year, however, I propose another hypothesis as to the identity of the ‘Lily of the valley’ and the ‘Rose of Sharon’. Another set of leaves…

via #AdventBotany Day 7: ‘like a Shoshana among the thorns’ — Culham Research Group