Yesterday I welcomed a group of scientists from the University of Manchester to the herbarium. Some study flowering plants like tobacco and barley, while others work with ferns, mosses and algae.
We discussed the ways that herbaria can be used, both to conduct scientific research and to teach people about plants. It’s nice to think how little the aims of the herbarium have changed over the years since the collections were first being put together.
Take our beautiful plant models for example:
In 1892, Frederick Wiess (the second Professor of Botany at the University of Manchester) valued the way that models could show the fine structure of a plant to a room full of people, saying that: “there are models and there are models…..the carefully prepared models, as supplied by Brendel, are a lesson in themselves.”
In the intervening years, there have been great changes both in the tools available to study plants and those to show them to an audience. But despite inventions such as Powerpoint and improvements in microscopy, these models still do the job that they were made for and are viewed by 1st year undergraduates learning about the variety of life.
To read more about models by Brendel, follow this link:
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).
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.
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!
Please note, Yew trees are NOT sweet, in fact they are quite poisonous!
We are getting all Christmassy with today’s Specimen of the Day.
These models of Mistletoe were made in Germany by the model makers R Brendel and Co. They came to the Manchester Museum in 1917 when we acquired the herbarium of Charles Bailey. The models are made of wood, wire and paper mache.