Latest science blog posts from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Oct 212016
Globally rare Scottish moss rediscovered at type locality after nearly 120 years

Despite its internationally important bryophyte flora Scotland has relatively few truly endemic species (perhaps four), and even some of these have a rather ambiguous taxonomic status due to their uncertain affinities to more widespread taxa. Molecular data can be critical for confirming or rejecting species as distinct and can also sometimes uncover “cryptic” species that […]

Oct 212016
Plant Hunting in the Tropics - preparations for fieldwork in Indonesia

This year, RBGE embarked on a 2 year collaborative project with Indonesia’s Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to work towards ‘Flora Malesiana’ taxonomic accounts for Begoniaceae, Gesneriaceae, Sapotaceae and Zingiberaceae. In this, the two institutions are committed to research and conserve plant diversity in Indonesia and to instigate research projects, training and fieldwork to this end. […]

Oct 182016
Gifted herbaria and volunteers

The RBGE Herbarium is frequently gifted plant specimens from individual collectors. In recent years we have received material from T. Powell (seaweeds) F. Dobremez (flora of Nepal) C. Townsend (mosses) R. Fraser-Jenkins (ferns) Often the culmination of a lifetime’s collecting and botanical expertise, these gifts are of enormous importance to the Herbarium. However, some specimens […]

Oct 072016
Sun prints on leaves

The few fine days which we had during August revealed an interesting trick in one of the plants in the temperate greenhouse. David Tricker, one of our greenhouse keepers, noticed that in bright sunlight shadows on Begonia grandis were semi-permanent. Rachel Brewer printed the RBGE logo onto acetate for me, and after a 2 week […]

Oct 052016
Full story of the Wentworth elm discovery

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 […]

Oct 042016
Botanical Double celebrates the Britain-Nepal Bicentenary

RBGE staff recently returned from Kathmandu where they had met with colleagues from the Government of Nepal’s Department of Plant Resources in celebration of the historic 200-year relationship between our two countries. Staff from the two gardens undertook a commemorative joint botanical expedition exploring the high Himalayan mountains, returning for the inauguration of the new […]

Sep 142016
A phylogeny of Sphaerocarpos

In conjunction with Dr Daniela Schill’s monographic work on Sphaerocarpos, we’ve been building a molecular phylogeny for the genus. We have attempted to extract DNA from 66 accessions, including three S. cristatus, all from California, seven S. donnellii from the US, five S. drewei from California, two S. hians, 13 S. michelii from France, Great […]

Sep 122016
This tiny “animal-swallowing” liverwort is spreading rampantly through our forests (and that’s cool!)

Colura calyptrifolia (or to give it its appropriately creepy-sounding common name, the Fingered Cowlwort), is one of our most fascinating UK liverworts. Absolutely tiny (the leaves are about a millimetre long and whole plants often only 2-3 mm), it is heavily modified from the basic leafy-liverwort body plan, the leaves formed into inflated sacs like […]

Sep 092016
Sphaerocarpos, preview to a monograph

The Sphaerocarpales (or “Bottle Liverworts”) form a very distinct group in the complex thalloid liverworts, with ca. 30 species in five genera: originally the group just included Geothallus (monospecific), Sphaerocarpos (8-9 species) and Riella (ca. 20 species), with two more monospecific genera, Austroriella and Monocarpus, added within the last few years. All five genera have very unusual, […]

Sep 082016
A rapid phylogeny of Marchantia, from the RBGE collections. II. Illuminating our sampling

One of the main problems with sampling largely from herbarium specimens, rather than from material that has been specifically collected for DNA work (rapidly dried in silica gel then maintained at low humidity), is that the quality of the DNA is unpredictable and usually rather poor. Therefore, despite starting out with 169 accessions and about […]