The Joy of Botany

An occasional column for the socially distanced botanist

The importance of social interaction amongst botanists was made abundantly clear by the Botanical Society and Exchange Club of the British Isles (as BSBI was then known) when, in the times of George Claridge Druce (1850-1932), the description of its objects and invitation to membership began with a statement to the effect that ‘The Society offers the advantage of meetings, correspondence, and the exchange of opinions between botanists”.

In times such as these, when we may not be able to look forward to field meetings for a while and isolation and social distancing has been brought upon us the new social media offer a way to keep in touch, and where we cannot look forward, we must perforce look back.

Thus, Druce wrote in the preface of his Comital Flora of the British Isles (January 1932) how “a new record was…a real joy” and reflected on “the pleasure of field-work …and of the many friends”. James Walter White in the second sentence of the Preface of his Flora of Bristol (March 1912) put it: “my love of botanical pursuits has brought me health, friends and recreation, with a host of delightful experiences”. This column is designed as a forum to share some of those happy times.

Joy of Botany #1 – introducing the Reverend E.S. Marshall, rector of West Monkton and author of the Supplement to the Flora of Somerset (1914).

Joy of Botany #2 – stories of exciting botanical discoveries by George Garlick, Rev. Marshall, and Eric Edees. Also included are some stories from the correspondence of H. Stuart Thomson (see also JoB #4).

Joy of Botany #3 – some recent research discoveries by Clive featuring Miss Isabella Gifford (see also JoB #5 and 6), E.S. Marshall, his wife Fanny, and his folk-song collecting daughter Phyllis. Stained glass windows also feature – dedicated to the Marshalls and to Bristol botanist Dr Henry Oxley Stephens. Clive also found a lead in the Linnaean Society archive to photographs of E.S. Marshall and the extravagantly named Dr Gustavus Adolphus Ornano St. Brody. At the end there are some poems and word puzzles.

Joy of Botany #4 – the story of the Sharpham Moor Plot, near Glastonbury, which was the second site in England specifically designated as a nature reserve. It includes background on H. Stuart Thomson, the main local botanist involved, and on Arthur Tansley who lent his considerable national prestige to the project. This also appeared as an article in our 2020 newsletter.

Joy of Botany #5 – a paper from 1855 by Isabella Gifford on rare and interesting plants in the Minehead area. Edited and updated with a biographical introduction by Clive. A printable PDF is available here.

Joy of Botany #6 – Research on the Somerset Whitebeam (Sorbus subcuneata), the Bristol Whitebeam (Sorbus bristoliensis), and a new first record of the Somerset Whitebeam.