Santa DToL

The twelve days of Christmas, the period between Christmas Day and Epiphany, must have been a logistical headache for the recipient of a cumulative total of twelve drummers, twenty two pipers, thirty lords, 36 ladies, forty maids (presumably all with cows), 42 swans, 42 geese, forty rings, 36 colley (or calling) birds, thirty hens, twenty two doves, twelve partridges and twelve pear trees: A bonanza of living things.

Here at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh we have our own biodiversity bonanza, with rich and abundant collections of preserved and living plants and fungi, and a wealth of knowledge about how and where to collect things, and how to identify them. All of that comes into play for one of our major research projects, the Darwin Tree of Life, a huge collaborative effort to collect and sequence the plants, fungi, animals and protists that are native to or naturalised in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We have already seen the release of the thousandth Darwin Tree of Life genome, the Purple Bar moth, Cosmorhoe ocellata.

To celebrate this festive season, we have considered what we have given, or might like to receive, for our own twelve days of Christmas…


Day 1: A partridge in a pear treePyrus communis, the pear tree

Day 2: Two turtle dovesGeranium molle, the Dove’s foot cranebill

Day 3: Three French hensOrchis mascula, Hen’s kames

Day 4: Four calling birdsScapania ornithopoides, the Birds-foot Earwort

Day 5: Five golden rings Solidago virgaurea, goldenrod

Day 6: Six geese a-layingRibes uva-crispa, Gooseberry

Day 7: Seven swans a-swimmingMnium hornum, Swan’s neck thyme moss

Day 8: Eight maids a-milkingPolygala serpyllifolia, heath milkwort

Day 9: Nine ladies dancingAlchemilla alpina, the alpine Lady’s mantle

Day 10: Ten lords a-leapingArum maculatum, Lords and ladies

Day 11: Eleven pipers pipingHylocomiadelphus triquetrus, pipe-cleaner moss

Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming – Aulacomnium androgynum, Drumsticks


To trace the progress of these and other collections through the Darwin Tree of Life pipeline, specimens can be tracked using the data portal   and sequencing can be tracked using tolqc Tree of Life QC ( Completed genome notes are available from