Manchester

Ash dieback

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Ash dieback confirmed across the UK this week. 

We have several specimens of Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) in the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.  Above, a boxed ash leaf, twig, seeds and timber (no collector or date, was probably used for a gallery display or education).

Below, a herbarium sheet of Ash collected in Levenshulme, a area of Manchester, in 1863 by Charles Bailey:

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And another from Fakenham, Norfolk, collected  in1862 by William Notcutt:

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A couple good guides to Ash dieback by the Forestry Commission, and another by the Royal Horticultural Society.

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Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma

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Last Friday saw the opening of the new temporary exhibition celebrating the life of Alan Turing, and particularly his work at the University of Manchester. As a child, Turing was interested in the natural world including how complex natural patterns can develop (such as Fibonacci sequences in sunflower and pinecone spirals) and he revisited this interest while working with the newly invented computer in Manchester. In 1952, Turing published this work in a paper (The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis) decribing a model showing how these patterns could develop from the interations of two chemicals. The new exhibition combines material used by Turing during his research time in Manchester with objects from the Museum’s extensive natural science collection.

Alan Turing and Life’s Enigma, until 18 Nov 2012

Historic Manchester

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The Manchester Histories Festival is well underway, so I think it’s time for some historically-minded posts. Leo Grindon’s Manchester Flora was published in 1859 by William White of Bloomsbury and it is ‘A descriptive list of the plants growing wild within eighteen miles of Manchester with notices of the plants commonly cultivated in gardens’. The book encourages us to ‘consider the lilies of the field’.

 

 

 

 

Along with an introduction to botany, keys to the families of plants and descriptions of species, Grindon also tells us where to go and look for these plants. So, in 1859, Ringway was the place to go and see snowdrops. I wonder if there are plenty to be found around the airport this spring? 

 

Our copy also has an added extra tucked safely between its pages – a little bleeding heart flower (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, previously Dicentra specabilis). This plant became a popular addition to british gardens after 1846 when Robert Fortune brought it back from his travels through Japan (1812-1880). I wonder if the person who pressed it managed to identify it?

Specimen of the Day: 21/12/2009 – Frankincense

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It’s so nearly christmas and there’s snow in Manchester (falling off the roof like an avalanche) and on the Herbology Manchester blog too (silently and not half so cold).

Unfortunatley this article has neither the date nor details of the publication it came from.
Illustration from the Leo Grindon collection

Frankincense is our specimen of the day.  Had a rummage and found this specimen and newspaper clipping in our Grindon collection, and  then found a jar of the stuff in the Materia Medica.  The blurb in the paper makes no mention of  the gifts given to baby Jesus, of which frankincense was one.  Maybe it wasn’t a big deal in 1850.

Frankincense is an sweet smelling resin from trees in the genus Boswellia, mainly found in North Africa. 

Guess what the specimen will be tomorrow?

My Dear Whitehead… …I remain yours very respectfully Thomas Whitelegge

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Having looked through our archives, I found one letter from Thomas Whitelegge.  It was written to his old friend from The Ashton Linnean Botanical Society, John Whitehead.  It is dated March 23, 1885 and shows Whitelegge’s address as 537 Crown St, Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales.

Having discovered last week that Whitelegge had corresponded with Darwin, I was a little disappointed to only find this one letter, however it is such an interesting letter I soon cheered up.  Considering Whitelegge left school at 8 years old, his handwriting is remarkably easy to read.  Working in the herbarium and doing my History degrees, I have spent many hours transcribing Victorian handwriting so I know how difficult it can be to read.  I’ll try and find time to transcribe the letter fully and post it up here, but in the meantime here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite…

“…I  think it is now time I gave you some hint as to how I like this country.  I like it better every day and never regret coming out here but I have been very fortunate in getting a government billet, which is a fine thing out here there are no broken weeks or paydays although there is some 10 public holidays in each year, and the hours are only school hours 9 to 4 with 1 hour for dinner so that when I leave off I can jump on our steam tramway cars and go mossing and have 3 or 4 hours out before dark.  The trams go at such a speed to that is a wonder there is not more accidents then what there is.  The cars are double deckers ugly looking things appearing top heavy so that you would think they would topple over…”