Killarney fern

The Yorkshire Fern Group of the BPS started their field season with a historic day out yesterday, near Bingley. Our intention was to check on the sporophyte of Killarney fern at the location first found by Dr Richardson in 1724, then not seen after 1785 until Jesse Tregale found new sporophyte fronds in 2011. This original colony is in good shape – and we were delighted to find 2 more colonies nearby. This area was thoroughly searched in 2012, without success, so these must be new sporophytes. We searched the rest of this area with no further finds, so decided to check on the woods by the stream lower down the hillside. We found another colony almost immediately, and then with mounting euphoria discovered several more colonies along the stream, bringing the overall total to 11 colonies! Whatever triggers the production of sporophytes must be operating well in West Yorkshire!

Plans for Southport Fernery

Volunteers from the Botanic Gardens Community Association and garden staff met in the Southport Fernery yesterday morning for a question and answer session with Louise Galloway and Andy Ensoll of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. They gave us invaluable advice on watering, feeding, weeding, planting, and pest control, to help us to restore this historic fernery to its former glory. John Wilkinson of Plant Heritage was also able to join us to advise on how to go about establishing a National Collection of plants in the Fernery.

Over two days, Louise and Andy looked in detail at the current planting, and were able to make specific suggestions about which plants will best tolerate the conditions in the different areas of the fernery. They also gave us practical information on the best composts, feeds, and pest control agents. We are hugely grateful to them for their time and for sharing their expertise – we are now in a position to make a detailed action plan for the coming weeks and months. There is a lot of work to do – I will be documenting progress on this blog, and also on our ‘Fern World’ Facebook page.

Fern cake

Sometimes you have to celebrate milestones. Since October 2016 my project, as a volunteer in the herbarium of Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, has been to separate the collection of ferns from South Asia into smaller geographic groupings.

It is estimated that the South Asia (“Area 5”) collection of all plant species contains over 400,000 specimens. There has been concern about the risk of damage as people search through multiple folders for items of interest for their research. It was decided to divide the collection into smaller, more manageable groups, which will enable people to find specimens more easily. The South Asia section is being divided into five geographic regions: 5a – India, Bangladesh & Pakistan, 5b – Sri Lanka, 5c – Myanmar (Burma), 5d- Bhutan, Sikkim & Darjeeling, and 5e – Nepal. This also fits with the strategic focus of RBGE on producing floras of some regions, e.g. Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and will enable digitisation proposals and projects to be undertaken more easily. Once the specimens are divided they are given new folders and labels.

Much of this work of dividing the collection is being done by herbarium volunteers. I was lucky enough to be given the task of the dividing of all the fern specimens from South Asia. It has been very interesting to see so many lovely ferns, many of which I had never seen, or even heard of, before. It has also been fascinating to be handling specimens from some of the famous plant collectors, such as W. Griffith, Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, J.D. Hooker and George Forrest, some dating back to the mid-1800’s. But last week I finished dividing all the ferns! To celebrate one of the staff members brought in a cake decorated with a fern motif.