All bees have died…

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Art student Jade Alana Ashton was inspired by the specimens and space here at the herbarium and brought her stunning artwork back in to photograph them amongst the cabinets and museum objects.


Here’s what she says about her work:

Jade Alana Ashton, APOIDEA (2013)

Imagine yourself in a museum of the future where specimens of flora, fauna, botany, are frozen in time…

All bees have died…

No flowers… No pollen… No bees…

Text and phrases, particularly from children’s literature, is often a starting point for my work. However, my concerns for the environment, and its flora and fauna, are also themes I explore further; my work tells its own story, but starts from a line or two from another author’s narrative. This usually results in an installation, containing hand-built porcelain and mixed media pieces. Furthermore I deliver art workshops for schools, art galleries, and museums.


Portugal, Porto and port

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group shot in Porto

I had a wonderful trip to Porto in Portugal last week with two volunteers from the Manchester Museum, Gina and Vivien.  The themes were ecology and culture, and we mixed with staff and volunteers from other institutions in Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Portugal, Lithuania and Iceland.  Each country will take a turn to host the group, with different volunteers each time.  The project is called ‘This is us: Our place, our culture!‘ and is funded by Grundtvig.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to go.

lipor flags

We were taken to Lipor, the region’s recycling plant, where the waste that the local residents recycle is sorted for further processing.  It was set in beautiful gardens with vegetables, fruit trees, farm animals and a small lake. Local children are invited to attend educations sessions there to help pass on the message of recycling to their families, and to grow up with the knowledge of recycling and its benefits.  We each made a grass head and a foam pipe to bring home – both great ways to use up waste products and teach children about recycling.

my grass head

foaming pipes

We also visited Águas do Douro e Paiva, a water treatment works for the Douro region.  We learned how to make candles and soap from used kitchen oil, another practical way of reusing rather than recycling waste products.


And yes, we did visit a port wine cellar, and it would have been rude not to sample a little.

River Douro boat trip

The group will be visiting Manchester in spring 2014 and we are looking forward to welcoming them with fish and chips!

Our green pledge at The Firs

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As part of our green pledge work in the museum five of us from the Collections team went  to The Firs (The University of Manchester’s experimental garden).

repotting economic plants at The Firs

Our job was re-potting the economic plants from a display in one of the greenhouses.  Above, Henry and David mixing compost in the potting shed.

Platycerium bifurcatum - staghorn fern

We explored the greenhouses while we were there, and came across this impressive staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum).  Below, carnivorous plants Venus Flytrap and a sundew, and the cactus house.

Venus fly trap and sundew

the cactus house

Being away from the workplace and out in the sunshine (although it was very, very cold) made it a great morning’s work.  I enjoyed working with living plants, getting my hands dirty, and working with different people.   The Firs is a wonderful place to visit.

Botany volunteer Barbara Porter donated her rare fern collection to the Firs when she died.  It was good to see the bench dedicated to her.


Lindsey and botany intern Alyssa repotting lemongrass plants.


New Genus

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Previous Curator of Botany, Dr Sean Edwards, had a particular fancy for mosses. Collecting mosses in Nigeria in 1978, he came across a moss-like plant growing in the Kafundu Valley, at the top of a waterfall.  He collected a few pieces, packeted it and later identified it as Inversodicraea musciformis. It remained here, in the herbarium at the Manchester Museum.

Last year, Sean contacted us to say he had “the opportunity to correct the identification of a flowering plant in the Herbarium”.  He went on to say “It was labelled as Inversodicraea musciformis (Podostemaceae), because the species that it really is hadn’t been described or even discovered then — not until 2003.  The genus was correct, though Inversodicraea has now become Ledermanniella.

It is quite an interesting plant, and may get asked for, as people are starting to work on the family.

See: .
My interest in it was because it is a moss-like flowering plant.”

Sean asked for the specimen to be sent, to have it confirmed.  Earlier this year, he replied, “Well, good news re. the herbarium specimen.

It is indeed Ledermanniella onanai Cheek, only the second  find — well, the first of course but since it was not known or described in 1978, identification was not possible. Martin Cheek at Kew described it in 2003 from a second find in neighbouring Cameroon in 1998, and he confirms the identification and is very pleased. Also Rolf Rutishauer (Zurich) who published a revision of the family in 2004 which I used to identify it, confirms the identification.

It will remain in the Red Data Book as endangered (IUCN EN), with only the two sites known”.

And it’s a new genus for the herbarium as well!  Thanks, Sean!

The Allotment in May

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The Allotment in May

Sun + rain = lots of green!