Latest science blog posts from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Nov 172015
Are half the specimens in the herbarium at Edinburgh wrongly named?

Zoë Goodwin, who first arrived at RBGE as an MSc student, became a member of staff, and is now a PhD student (University of Oxford), has just published a paper on misidentifications: “Widespread mistaken identity in tropical plant collections“ In that paper two world-wide phenomena are quantified: In large tropical plant groups most of the […]

Nov 042015
Lost before found: Was there more than one species in Monocarpus?

The complex thalloid liverwort Monocarpus sphaerocarpus has been found on two continents, Australia and Africa, separated by around 8,000 km of mostly ocean. The green plants themselves are not particularly easy to compare, as the plants are small and the material that we have to work with has been squashed down and dried to form […]

Nov 032015
Delongia, a new moss genus named after David Long

The relative structural simplicity of some groups of mosses can disguise their uniqueness, especially when simplified features have evolved multiple times within the same family from ancestors with more complex morphologies. The family Polytrichaceae is particularly well-known for very robust mosses such as the familiar Polytrichum commune, in which the leaves have sheathing bases and […]

Nov 022015
Rates of change in liverwort genes

Although the exact relationships between the earliest land plant lineages are not yet well resolved, there is consensus that liverworts are one of the most ancient land plant groups. We are also confident that liverworts are a “good” taxonomic group, united by morphological and structural similarities, as well as by analyses of molecular sequence data […]

Oct 302015
Oh blast - there's more to life than Marchantia polymorpha

One of the earliest plastid genomes to be sequenced, in the late 1980s (Ohyama et al.), was that of Marchantia polymorpha, one of the commonest liverworts around town, and an increasingly widely used model organism for genetic research. The complete mitochondrial genome followed, with a key publication by Oda et al. in 1992. The research […]

Oct 292015
Scientific progress, continental drift and glaciers: The history of a paper on the complex thalloid liverworts

Rather a while ago, back in 2003, we started working on a phylogeny of the complex thalloid liverworts at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (as a Molecular Phylogenetics Project). We were beautifully placed to conduct the work, with taxonomist Dr David Long on the staff, and all the necessary molecular facilities in place. Plants were […]

Oct 122015
Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile - linking our collections

To tie in with the launch of ‘Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile’, we wanted to look at some of the material from our herbarium and living collections that are linked to the stunning illustrations and the work done by the scientists behind the book. The paintings used in the book and on […]

Oct 082015
Hidden diversity in unexpected places - moss growth on modern building surfaces

Back in 2014, staff in the molecular lab and herbarium at RBGE greatly enjoyed a three-week visit from Austrian Dr Wolfgang Hofbauer. With funding from the EU SYNTHESYS programme, Wolfgang, employed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, was here to investigate mosses of modern building surfaces. He brought with him interesting chocolate, a taste […]

Sep 292015
Carex on Herbaria@Home

RBGE has recently started to explore the use of Citizen Science platforms by providing images and data to Herbaria@Home, a long standing and successful platform for transcribing herbarium specimen labels. The primary focus of this platform is British and Irish specimens, and with the help of their volunteers over 160,000 British and Irish specimens from […]

Sep 252015
First Audio Leaflet: Dawyck Scottish Trees Trail

Apps Apps Apps For several years now we have been looking for a way to make appropriate use of mobile phones to deliver interpretation material. Smart phones really kicked off with the launch of the first iPhone in 2007 and  the market has now matured with very capable handsets available for little over £100. They […]