Max Coleman

Nov 012016
 
Tiina harvesting black nightshade in October 2016.

Tiina harvesting black nightshade in October 2016.

Visitors to the Garden have been asking questions about this year’s Really Wild Veg trial plots that contain various black nightshade species. Jan, who tends the plants, has passed on these interesting bits of feedback on the uses of black nightshades:

While I was picking today I was approached by an Edinburgh woman and her grandmother from Pakistan.  She was adamant that she uses the leaves with no other preparation than ‘wilting’ them ‘like spinach’ into curry.

A second visitor from Johannesburg identified one particular row as a weed in her garden but said when she gets home she will revise what she can do with it!!

As the plan is to repeat this trial next year we will try to capture such comments from visitors.

Oct 272016
 
Jan and Tiina with one of the black nightsahde plants in the Really Wild Veg trial for 2016.

Jan and Tiina with one of the black nightsahde plants in the Really Wild Veg trial for 2016.

Try to imagine how would you feel if you were invited to attend a meal where dishes made with black nightshade were going to be the centrepiece? This is exactly the position I was in recently at an Edible Gardening Project volunteer social. Although on the face of it this sounds really alarming, and one might reasonably wonder if someone had it in for you, this event was actually a great pleasure and really very interesting. Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is a weedy plant that produces small black berries and lots of leafy greens. However, this pretty non-descript looking plant has some truely deadly cousins. The nightshade family, often called the potato family, includes the highly poisonous deadly nightshade (the names tells you all you need to know) as well as many other plants you’d be wise to avoid like the plague. The family is well known for producing toxins called alkaloids. The thing about green potato that is bad for you is the alkaloids. Obviously black nightshade is edible as serving toxic food to volunteers is a fast track way to get fired!

Black nightshade fruit. In this species the fruit are not edible and the leaf is the crop, but in most of the other close relatives the fruit is good to eat.

Black nightshade fruit. In this species the fruit are not edible and the leaf is the crop, but in most of the other close relatives the fruit is good to eat.

I should explain that black nightshade growing trials and tastings are the latest result of the Garden’s ongoing exploration of edible wild plants under the banner of Really Wild Veg. During 2016 the first set of trials have taken place and a lot of learning has resulted. Jan Tapson from the Edible Gardening Project volunteer team has taken the growing trials under her wing. Seeds were obtained via Tiina Sarkinen of the RBGE science team as part of her research into the group of related species that are called the black nightshade group. A number of these are important tradditional crops in Africa, hence their other name African nightshades. The real interest in these plants, from a food plant perspective, is that research is showing they are highly nutritious and often better than the imported European crops that African farmers have been encouraged to grow.

What we want to know is do they have potential as crops in Scotland, which is why the trials are so important. The other advantage of growing them is that they link directly to current botanical research being carried out here to determine exactly how many species there may be in this group and what factors have driven their evolution.

Getting back to the dinner event…

With a meal like this there is always that thought in the back of your mind that you might be about to poison yourself. For me that was intensified by the fact that I had moments earlier been helping Tiina to harvest the leaves and berries to be cooked up. I was given the task of picking berries from different types and keeping them seperate for later tasting. Naturally I sampled as I picked. All was going fine until I got an unpleasant buring sensation in my throat. I told Tiina about this and she casually said “oh no you should’nt eat the fruit of those ones there”! All I could do was assume that as she was not reaching for her phone to dial the emergency services I was probably going to live to tell the tale.

The story does have a happy ending as many of the Edible Gardening Project volunteers did get to try both the fruits (the edible ones) anf the cooked leaves as part of a most impressive spread provided in the form of a pot luck dinner in The Botanic Cottage. The leaves were parboiled with some bicarbonate of soda before being squeezed and either added to a dal or fried with onions and spices. The pretreatment step is supposed to reduce the bitterness of the leaves. In both forms they were truely delicious, with no obvious bitterness. Rather like spinach, but with much more substance to them. The berries, I have to say, are pretty bland, although Tiina has assured me that they do make a passable jam.

Edible Gardening Project volunteers sampling black nightshade.

Edible Gardening Project volunteers sampling black nightshade.

This was certainly my most memorable dinner in a long time.

Oct 052016
 
Wentworth elm at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Wentworth elm at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Following extensive media coverage of the discovery of the Wentworth elm at the Palace of Holyroodhouse this blog seems like the appropriate place to give a bit more background on the story and to recognise the many contributions that have helped the story to develop.

The discovery happened as a result of existing connections between RBGE and the Palace established by Laura Gallagher in the RBGE Nursery. Laura was exploring the propagation of the many fine elms in the grounds. As Laura was not familiar enough with elms to be able to do the identification she asked me if I would be willing to have a look. An appointment with the Head Gardener was arranged and I was shown all of the elms in the grounds. There are many fine specimen trees at the Palace and it was a real pleasure to get a guided tour from Stephen Christoforou who clearly knows and loves his trees.

Among the many familiar elms were two tall majestic trees that have a distinctive weeping habit. As soon as I saw them I knew they would turn out to be interesting as they were completely unfamiliar to me, despite over 20 years looking at elms. During our survey I was able to tell Stephen that the two trees in question were identical to each other and represented a distinct clone that almost certainly had a cultivar name. I could see that they were of hybrid origin produced from a cross between the native Scottish wych elm (Ulmus glabra) and the southern European field elm (Ulmus minor). This hybrid has actually happened countless times and each of the hybrid offspring has its own unique characteristics. The scientific name applied to these rather varied hybrids is Ulmus x hollandica and they are sometimes given the common name Dutch elm (although that is a potential source of confusion and another story altogether). The next step was to establish the full identity of the tree by linking them to descriptions and images of a named cultivar. Not as easy as it might sound.

Gardeners and plant nurseries have selected and named trees, and other plants, over the years for particular distinctive characteristics. The Wentworth elm is an example of this process. Such plants are called cultivars and this word is derived from cultivated variety. As such Wentworth elm is not a species and it very much reflects what people have found to be attractive in elms. In order to get suggestions for the identity of these trees I passed on images to a network of contacts familiar with elms. Peter Bourne was first to come back with Wentworth elm as a likely identification. The key characteristics of this elm are a distinctly weeping habit and large glossy more or less hairless leaves. Further research convinced me that Peter was right and we began talking to the Royal Household about press publicity as the elms seemed likely to be the sole survivors of their type.

Leaf of a Wentworth elm grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew that matches perfectly to the Palace trees.

Leaf of a Wentworth elm grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew that matches perfectly to the Palace trees.

The published record of Wentworth elms is very scant indeed. We don’t know the exact derivation of the name or where the elm originated. A famous Berlin nursery called Späth is known to have supplied this elm in the late 1800’s when it first appears in the literature. As Wentworth elm is not in the standard tree books of the time we can only assume it was never widely planted or known about. The proper full name for Wentworth elm is Ulmus ‘Wentworthii Pendula’ as cultivar names are always placed in single inverted commas and not in italic text.

Thanks to Rob Cubey exploring the RBGE plant record archives we have unearthed a tantalising possibility. We have a record of three Wentworth elms arriving from Späth in Berlin in 1902. We also now know, thanks to all the media coverage of the story on October 4th 2016, that the Palace actually had three Wentworth elms. It has turned out that in 2008 one of the three was felled due to disease. Joe Muir, Park Manager at the time, had the rings counted and this indicated the tree went back to around 1905. Given that exact ring counting is tricky this result is in near perfect agreement with the RBGE records. Although we are yet to find the written proof, we can say with some confidence that the three RBGE Wentworth elms probably made their way to the Palace and were planted sometime after 1902. This would be consistent with accounts of other plants going from RBGE to the Palace at that time. In fact the Head Gardener at the time, William Smith, had trained at RBGE so it is very likely that regular contact between the two gardens was quite normal. Leonie Paterson at RBGE and Sally Goodsir at the Royal Collection Trust have scoured the archives to locate a record of the elms planting. So far, however, this final piece of the story has eluded us.

RBGE Wentworth elm that died in 1996 due to Dutch elm disease.

RBGE Wentworth elm that died in 1996 due to Dutch elm disease.

The RBGE did have a specimen of Wentworth elm until 1996 when it died from Dutch elm disease. This tree was considerably smaller than the Palace trio and must have been planted many years later. Even the former nursery site in Berlin, which is now an arboretum, has confirmed that they do not have a specimen of Wentworth elm. Given the wide geographical spread of Dutch elm disease in Europe it seems unlikely that Wentworth elms have survived elsewhere. The reason for the unexpected survival at the Palace is that the City of Edinburgh Council has controlled Dutch elm disease very effectively. Without this action by the Local Authority the Palace and the rest of the City would have lost almost all the many thousands of elms present today.

Looking to the future and thinking about how we can ensure future generations are able to enjoy this majestic elm the RBGE will embark on a programme of elm propagation. Elms often root readily from cuttings, but if that fails a standard horticultural practice called grafting can be employed. Given the disease control measures now in place in Edinburgh it would be safe to plant Wentworth elms and it is hoped that a new generation of trees might be established at the Palace and RBGE.

Elsewhere in the UK there are other areas where the disease is strictly controlled or absent. Brighton hosts the National Collection and northern Scotland is still free of disease. Here populations of the very hardy native wych elm still thrive, representing a very unusual survival in a European context. New research is suggesting that certain parts of northern and western Britain are too cold for the beetle that is essential for spreading the fungus that causes the disease. In a few places on the higher mountains of Europe similar survivors have been noticed.

Overall, the loss of elms has been massive (25-75 million trees in the UK alone). However, there is hope for the future. A small percentage of trees seem to have some sort of natural advantage and various projects are working to propagate this natural variation. The RBGE has worked on this in the past in relation to Scottish wych elm. In addition, since the 1970’s breeding programmes in various countries have been crossing and selecting elms for resistance with some considerable success. This has mostly involved crossing Asian elms with European elms as the Asian species display high levels of resistance. Research is showing that Asian species can get infected and yet display no symptoms of disease. In truth the future of elms looks bright and we should follow the lead of the Dutch who regard their national tree as something worth fighting for. Today if you visit Amsterdam most of the street trees are disease resistant elms.

Aug 302016
 
Male wool carder bee on a favoured leaf from which he defends his territory.

Male wool carder bee on a favoured leaf from which he defends his territory.

This morning around 11am Meg Beresford set off on her ‘Let’s Make a Bee Line’ walk from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to Wiston Lodge covering 10km a day over 8 days.

The 10km a day is a carefully chosen number. It is all bound up with the bees Meg is bringing to our attention. A foraging bumblebee will fly 10km from its nest in search of pollen and nectar. Unfortunately, modern farming, and other changes in the environment, are making conditions for bees increasingly challenging. Meg wants to bring the plight of bees to a wider audience and fund raise for a meeting on bee conservation to be held at Wiston Lodge.

You can follow Meg’s progress at The Buzz Feed, a blog that will chart the progress of the walk. This will also give information of events that will happen along the way. If you would like to support Let’s Make a Bee Line donations can be given at https://makeabeeline.org/honey/

Meg at the Water of Leith on the first day of her Let's Make a Bee Line walk to raise awareness about the plight of bees.

Meg at the Water of Leith on the first day of her Let’s Make a Bee Line walk to raise awareness about the plight of bees.

Ian Edwards (RBGE) joins Meg on the first leg of the walk.

Ian Edwards (RBGE) joins Meg on the first leg of the walk.

Aug 302016
 

Moth trapping in the Garden is now happening on a regular basis with the input of Edinburgh Natural History Society and MSc student Tom Dawes.

Records from 29th/30th August:

Ypsolopha dentella (Honeysuckle moth) – 2; Blastobasis adustella – 9+; Large Yellow Underwing – 57; Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing – 1; Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing – 1; Copper Underwing – 3; Mouse Moth – 1; Mottled Beauty – 2; Flounced Rustic – 1; Dun-bar – 1; Acleris sp. – 1; White-line Dart – 1; ?Brown House Moth – 1; probable Ingrailed Clay – 1; Agriphila tristella – 1; Dark Arches – 1.

Copper Underwing.

Copper Underwing.

Mottled Beauty.

Mottled Beauty.

Marbled Beauty.

Marbled Beauty.

Records from 10th/11th August:

Mottled Beauty – 1; Large Yellow Underwing – 43; Fan-foot – 1; Lesser Yellow Underwing – 3; Large Broad-boardered Yellow Underwing – 1; Golden Dart – 1; Dotted Clay – 1; Small Fan-foot Wave? – 1.

Jul 272016
 
Pond dipping at Benmore BioBlitz.

Pond dipping at Benmore BioBlitz.

Counting the wild species in a given area in a set time is the aim of a BioBlitz. Clearly, the biggest list will be produced by involving as many people as possible who can identify a wide range of organisms. It was with the aim of being a record breaker that the Benmore BioBlitz kicked off at 4 pm on Friday 15 July with a team of over 20 expert recorders. The Benmore Botanic Garden event was the fourth in a series of Bioblitz events and  by 4 pm on Sunday 17 July 288 species were recorded. However, this was not the final figure as many specimens were collected that needed microscopic examination to determine their identity. There was also a backlog of paper records to be added at the end of the event.

Gold spangle moth.

Gold spangle moth.

So, what did we discover about wildlife at Benmore Botanic Garden? Well, for a start, the record for longest list was well and truely broken. The previous event totals were: Edinburgh 556 species; Logan 360 species and Dawyck 561 species. I was quietly confident that with a team that included expertise in lichens, bryophytes and fungi (all diverse groups at Benmore) we had a good chance of a record species list. The weather was not kind and rain kept flying insect numbers down, so it was a very pleasant surprise to find that all the hard work during and after the BioBlitz had resulted in a record breaking list of 707 species. The largest single group was higher plants with 185 species, but bryophytes (mosses and their allies) came a close second with 172 species. Fungi came third with 122 species, and moths fourth with 68.

The moth count was a fantastic achievement considering the weather conditions! Seven traps were set out on both nights.

Purple bar.

Purple bar.

Tom and Andrew identifying moths.

Tom and Andrew identifying moths.

Top left Tunbridge filmy fern, a rare species located during the BioBlitz.

Top left Tunbridge filmy fern, a rare species located during the BioBlitz.

The details are still being digested, but some notable species are already emerging. The rare Tunbridge filmy fern (Hymenophyllum tunbrigense) was located near the Golden Gates. This tiny fern with a frond that is only a single cell thick is restricted to humid sites and is a speciality of the Celtic rainforest that survives in the area around Benmore Botanic Garden in fragments of native coastal woodland. Sticking with ferns some natural regeneration of a tree fern in the genus Dicksonia was noted. In contrast to the filmy fern this group of ferns includes some giants that can reach several metres. Presumably these plants are the result of spores that have escaped from the Benmore Fernery. Only time will tell what species they are and whether they can withstand the Benmore climate, but they are unlikely to ever match the impressive outdoor specimens at Logan Botanic Garden. The final tally for ferns and their allies was 23 species.

Among the oddities the prize has to go to the flowers of tan. This curious bright yellow mass is a slime mould (Fuligo septica). The name comes from its frequent appearance in tan bark bits used in tanning hides. For a long time these strange organisms were grouped in with the fungi, but are today regarded as a separate group called slime moulds. Also known as dog vomit slime mould and scrambled egg slime, for obvious reasons, this truely odd organism is nonetheless very easy to spot. Keep an eye out for it next time you are in the woods!

Dog vomit slime mould.

Dog vomit slime mould.

Special thanks must go to all the recorders, without whom the record breaking list could not have been created. The Lorn Natural History Group provided a number of expert recorders and in due course will process all of the records so that they become publicly available via the website of the National Biodiversity Network.

The final list breaks into groups as follows:

3 Mammals; 32 Birds; 3 Amphibians; 1 Butterfly; 68 Moths; 7 Hoverflies; 7 Flies; 5 Beetles; 6 Bugs; 7 Bees, wasps and ants; 4 Other insects; 1 Spider; 2 Slugs and snails; 5 Crustaceans; 1 Centipede; 2 Millipedes; 1 Other animal; 185 Plants (excluding ferns and mosses); 23 Ferns and allies; 172 Mosses and allies; 122 Fungi and 50 Lichens.

Jul 262016
 
Male wool carder bee on a favoured leaf from which he defends his territory.

Male wool carder bee on a favoured leaf from which he defends his territory.

The wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) is one of the most distinctive solitary bees that lives in the Garden. During July and August the Demonstration Garden and the Rock Garden are good places to look for these lively territorial solitary bees. Your best chance of seeing a wool carder bee will involve first locating the woolly plant that the bee has a special relationship with – lamb’s-ear (Stachys byzantina). Female wool carder bees hunt out this plant and others, such as Stachys alpina, in order to harvest hairs for the construction of their nests. Four beds of Stachys have been specially planted to encourage wool carder bees within the Fruit Garden. Weather also plays a part as the bees are more active on warm sunny days.

Stem of lamb's-ear showing bald patches due to the wool collecting activity of female wool carder bees.

Stem of lamb’s-ear showing bald patches due to the wool collecting activity of female wool carder bees.

This bee is worth looking out for as it is relatively new to Edinburgh, with the first sighting in the City made on 22 July 2011 at the Botanics. All previous records of this species in Scotland are from Dumfries and Galloway, and quite how it reached Edinburgh is unknown. However, it is clearly at home here as subsequent sightings have shown it to be established in Blackhall, Broughton, Leith and Craigentinny. This year it was spotted for the first time in the gardens of Holyrood Palace.

The bee itself is not obviously marked, although yellow dots on either side of the abdomen are worth looking for. What is most striking is some curious behaviour. The males can establish a small territory that they patrol, often returning to a favoured spot to rest. Intruders that are not female wool carder bees are attacked and chased out of this territory. During patrols the males can hover motionless in the air just like a hoverfly. This hovering is one of the best ways to spot wool carder bees for the first time. The females are smaller and generally go about their business of harvesting small balls of hairs and stocking their nests with pollen and nectar to feed their young. A short video of a female bee collecting hairs from Stachys can be seen here.

A ball of 'wool' dropped by a female wool carder bee.

A ball of ‘wool’ dropped by a female wool carder bee.

Curiously, not all males establish a territory. Smaller males that might be mistaken for the obviously smaller female bees seem to persist by adopting a sneaky mating strategy that involves none of the effort of defending a territory.

Male wool carder bee viewed from above showing the distinctive pattern of yellow dots on the abdomen.

Male wool carder bee viewed from above showing the distinctive pattern of yellow dots on the abdomen.

Apr 062016
 

Some of us try our best to discourage ants in the garden. I’m not sure why as they really don’t do any harm. However, in the plant kingdom there are a few species that actively encourage ants to live within them in specially created ant homes that are grown by the plant. On the face of it this seems like the oddest thing for a plant to do. On closer examination it becomes clear why a plant would go to the bother of cultivating an ant colony. The most important bonus is a 24/7 security service. Any other animal that might cause harm to the ant plant is instantly attacked by an army of minature defenders with fearsome jaws. Another benefit is that the ant waste contains lots of valuable plant nutrients that are absorbed by special structures inside the home created for the ants.

Flower of Myrmephytum arfakianum.

Flower of Myrmephytum arfakianum.

Right on cue an ant plant from the Arfak Mountains in West Papua, Indonesia, is now flowering as part of a display for Edinburgh International Science Festival. We have enhanced our children’s glasshouse trail – Survival of the Smartest – with a display of plants showing a range of survival adaptations, and among them is Myrmephytum arfakianum with its very odd looking blue flower. To be honest the entire plant is the strangest looking thing. If you image a prickly haggis you just about have it. You can see this botanical curiosity in the Temperate Palm House until Sunday 10th April after which it will be taken off public display.

The ant plant is just one of many plants featuring in the Survival of the Smartest trail for Science Festival. Young explorer’s can discover how plants could help them survive in an emergency and how the plants are able to survive in all sorts of different conditions through smart adaptations. Making homes for ants is really just the begining… Continue reading »

Mar 242016
 
MSc student Tom Dawes with one of the moths from the Garden's new moth traps.

MSc student Tom Dawes with one of the moths from the Garden’s new moth traps.

Monitoring the wildlife in the Garden is an ongoing task that helps us understand the value of gardens, and other amenity greenspaces, for all sorts of different animals. Moth trapping is the latest activity to become a regular focus of attention. With the help of a grant from the Friends two portable moth traps have been purchased to allow regular trapping throughout the year.

Recent BioBlitz events at the Edinburgh Garden, Logan and Dawyck have all shown how many moth species are using the gardens as a habitat. A typical summer trapping could easily include 60 different species. Some are impressive large species you might think would only be encountered somewhere more exotic than Edinburgh.

Around 6pm on the 23rd March a single mains-powered Skinneer trap was set in the Garden and left running over night. The following morning moth recorder and Garden MSc student Tom Dawes found eight individuals of four different moth species. Two of these, Twin-spotted Quaker and Chestnut, (pictured below) are new records for the Garden.

Tom has been trapping moths since his grandfather bought him a trap as a 12th birthday present. According to Tom…

Now is a good time to check for species that are more cold tolerant and would normally be emerging in early spring. Trapping all year will build up a much better picture of the moths of the Garden and is well worth doing despite numbers often being low in winter.

IMG_2115The future of moth trapping looks bright. Both the Edinburgh Natural History Society and local volunteer recorders helping Butterfly Conservation have offered to help ensure regular trapping takes place.

Work is in the final stages to produce a new moth atlas for Britain and volunteer recorders are keen to get records for areas that are currently relatively poorly recorded. All of the Garden’s moth records will be made available for this national effort and will be sent to the local biological records centre.

Ultimately all of this data is freely available via the online resource called the NBN Gateway. So if you want to know more about the wildlife in your area the information is only a mouse click away.

Common Quaker.

Common Quaker.

Twin-spotted Quaker.

Twin-spotted Quaker. A new record for the Garden.

Hebrew Character.

Hebrew Character.

Identity yet to be determined.

Chestnut. A new record for the Garden.

Mar 182016
 
Examining Sapotaceae fruits and seeds in the Herbarium with Sapotaceae researcher Peter Wilkie.

Examining Sapotaceae fruits and seeds in the Herbarium with Sapotaceae researcher Peter Wilkie.

If anyone had asked me if I knew any plants belonging to the Sapotaceae family eight weeks ago, I would have had no suggestions – I probably wouldn’t have even been able to spell the word Sapotaceae! With around 1300 species, the tropical tree family Sapotaceae is incredibly diverse. From latex production to edible fruits (and just about everything in between!), the plants within this family are of great economic and environmental importance.

Miracle berry fruit makes sour food taste sweet.

Miracle berry fruit makes sour food taste sweet.

Perhaps my favourite discovery from researching this plant family is the miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum). The ‘miraculous’ element of this plant comes from its ability to change how we perceive tastes – after eating this berry, all sour foods taste sweet! We managed to source tablets containing miracle berry extract and decided to test their effect by eating a slice of lemon after eating the tablet. I was a little sceptical and wondered whether I would only notice a change in taste because I knew there was supposed to be one. However, I discovered that the change in taste was not at all subtle – the lemons tasted like sweet oranges! As someone with a sweet-tooth, this calorie-free phenomenon is very exciting! The potential applications of the miracle berry as a natural and healthier alternative to sugar could be revolutionary to dieters and diabetes patients alike.

Seeds of Sapotaceae from the research collection in the Herbarium. Sapotaceae have a characteristic dull scar with the rest of the seed surface often being glossy. Here the middle seed shows the scar uppermost.

Seeds of Sapotaceae from the research collection in the Herbarium. Sapotaceae have a characteristic dull scar with the rest of the seed surface often being glossy. Here the middle seed shows the scar uppermost.

Little did I know when I began this placement I have actually been using products derived from members of this family every single day! Shea butter, found in many cosmetic products, is a product from Vitellaria paradoxa, another species within the Sapotacae family. I discovered that shea butter is not only great for treating skin conditions, but for anti-inflammatory medical uses, and has great potential as a biodiesel. This great number of diverse applications was a common feature of many of the plants I researched. To coincide with the Garden’s spring exhibition about the Sapotaceae – Nature Mother of Invention – I have been involved in developing a display about the Sapotaceae. This covers floral and fruit diversity in the family as well as four examples of animals that have specific interactions with Sapotaceae trees. The animal interactions have been written up as a separate blog The dodo tree and other stories.

The practical, technical and revolutionary applications of the Sapotaceae family throughout history are largely due to the special properties of the latex produced by species of Palaquium, otherwise known as gutta-percha. This was the wonder substance of Victorian Britain and was used in the same way that we use plastics today for moulding. The most revolutionary development to arise from the Sapotaceae family is arguably the linking of the world with high-speed communication via telegraph cables laid on the ocean floor. These cables were only possible with gutta-percha insulation around the copper core.

Installing the Sapotaceae display in the John Hope Gateway Building.

Installing the Sapotaceae display in the John Hope Gateway Building.

The display I have worked on has been able to draw upon the research on Sapotaceae diversity that is a focus for the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. This work is documenting species unknown to science. Without a name nothing can be communicated about a species potential uses or their place in the wider ecology of the habitats where they grow. Given the great utility of this plant family so far it is natural to wonder what exciting new discoveries may be just around the corner. The Sapotaceae truely is the most interesting plant family you’ve probably never heard of.

The completed display.

The completed display.

This post is by guest blogger Sarah Fleming, Science Communication MSc student at the University of Edinburgh.