25 October 2013

Five Fact Friday: Plant Hunters - David Douglas

1. Born in Scone on 25 July 1799, he began an gardening apprenticeship in 1810. He died on 12 July 1834, in what has become a sadly infamous death, falling into a deep pit trap for wild cattle and seemingly being killed by the bullock that had already fallen in.

2. David Douglas was one of those people that are just very unlucky. One example being his first trip to North America. Upon disembarkation he was told my immigration officials that he was too scruffy to land. Permission to land was granted when he purchased some new clothes.

3. He travelled extensively and after only being in North America for 8 months, he had travelled 2,105 miles. Almost doubling this in the following year by travelling 3,932 miles.

4. David Douglas is credited with the discovery of over 200 new species of plants. It was, however, the conifers he introduced that changed the garden landscape of Britain. The Douglas fir is named after him. This also has the Latin name of Pseudotsuga menziesii, after Menzie who had previously explored the Pacific North-west - but was confined to his cabin by Captain Vancouver, who was fed up of the crew helping him collect plants.

5. Other plants that Douglas discovered include: Ribes sanguineum, Garry elliptica, and Pinus radiata.

Musgrave, T. (1998) The Plant Hunters, London, The Orion Publishing Group

21 October 2013

Common spangle gall - Neuroterus quercusbaccarum

Symptoms: Develops on the underside of the leaves of pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) and sessile oak (Quercus petraea). The discs begin as yellow-green and age to become reddish.

Cause: Caused by a small gall wasp called Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. These galls are created when the wasps of the currant gall generation emerge and lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The offspring of these eggs will emerge around April and the cycle will begin again.

Control: There doesn't appear to be much stress on the tree, so can be left in place. Also there can be many galls on each tree, making it very difficult to keep under control.

18 October 2013

Five Fact Friday: Plant Hunters - Frank Kingdon-Ward

1. Frank Kingdon-Ward born to Professor Harry Marshall Ward in 1885.
2. His father died prematurely, lacking money to continue his education Kingdon-Ward had to find a job. He rushed his studies and got the first job that would take him abroad. This job was as a teacher at the Shanghai Public School in 1907, which he didn't really enjoy - seeing it as a means to an end.
3. He set of in September 1909 for his first official plant hunting expedition. Returning a year later to his teaching job. By 1911 he was off again, spending much of the next 45 years on hunting for plants.
4. Kingdon-Ward had a fantastic memory for locations, which enabled him to return to collect seed at the right time - for instance being the first to bring viable seed of the blue poppy. It seems that he really enjoyed these trips and would travel with his first wife, later with his second wife. Even at the age of 73 years old he was planning another trip, although he sadly fell ill, collapsing into a coma and dying on 8 April 1958.
5. He introduced plants such as Lilium mackliniae, Primula florindae, and the lovely Cotoneaster conspicuus.

Musgrave, T. (1998) The Plant Hunters, London, The Orion Publishing Group

15 October 2013

Silver-washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia

Date Photographed: 20/07/2013
Location: Green Lane Wood, Trowbridge
Resources: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=paphia
Notes: Sadly I wasn't able to see the underside of the wing, where the silver streaks are found. This is my best ID from looking at the arrangements of the markings on the upper wing.

14 October 2013

Great Willowherb - Epilobium hirsutum

Date Photographed: 20/07/2013
Location: Green Lane Wood, Trowbridge
Resources: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/great-willowherb

10 October 2013

Desktop Calendar - October 2013

Here's a bouquet of flowers that I took from our garden in July. The bouquet is composed of salvia, passion flower, sweet pea, and dianthus.

If you like it and would like to use it as a background on your desktop, please follow the instructions below.

1) To ensure that you get the best quality, click the photo so that lightbox opens the image.
2) Right-click the image so that the context menu appears:
Firefox: Select "Set as Desktop Background..." and choose from the position options as below (Center or Fit will generally provide the best look).
Options from Firefox

Internet Explorer: Select "Set as Background". To change position settings you will need to set the personalise settings for the desktop in Control Panel:
Control Panel settings

Note: If anyone uses other Operating Systems and could let me know the instructions for applying the photo as a desktop image, please get in touch!

Thanks to Jessica Burke from Moss Plants and More for such a cool idea.

What to expect on Notes of Nature

The idea of this blog post have been sat in my head for a while now. Seeing the 'What to expect on Loose and Leafy' post and that it's World Mental Health Day has spurred me into action.

If you follow my blog you've probably noticed that for a blog entitled notes of nature, there aren't many notes! There are lots of photos and some basic information, then once in a while there will be an attempt at a note, either scientific or nature writing. There's a reason why the blog has a high ratio of photos compared to writing.

As some of you many know, in January 2012 the world stopped, well my world stopped. I woke up one morning and I literally couldn't do anything. Well I managed to get my shirt on for work, but couldn't manage the tie. Incredibly disappointed with myself, I called work and told them I couldn't come in today. My girlfriend (now fiancée *yay*), Lucy, managed to get me in at the doctors and took me there. The doctor immediately signed me off.

Over the next few weeks nothing happened. I couldn't do anything. Physically and mentally drained and in lots of pain. My doctor diagnosed me with depression. After more time, I underwent counselling and then CBT for many months. Here's the graph that shows the results to answers to the standard questionnaires that are required to be filled in after each session.
The graph shows my social phobia (at the top) and depression (at the bottom) scores. For depression I'm told it shows my going from major depression to mild depression. With CBT and finding (after many attempts) the right medication, I've been able to stabilise at mild depression.

One of the things that helped me find inspiration for life again was taking photographs of flowers. I don't really know what made me start, but after a while it was all I could think about. I couldn't drive any more due to fatigue and headaches, so I would spend every car journey looking out at the road verges for flowers. This led to a passion for plants; photographing them, identifying them, and learning about their biology.

As the depression stabilised the tiredness and pain continued. To cut the story short, I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. So I have regular appointments for physio, occupational therapy, and check ups. I feel positive that I can manage this and get back to a 'normal' life. I can't wait to get back to work and have a family - I want this to happen - managing fibromyalgia and the depression is the priority. I've found that when I replace them with other priorities - I fall back: badly.

It's a lesson I've had to learn a few times.

So, back to the focus of the blog post: what to expect on Notes of Nature.

1) Mainly photographs: Photo posts use much less energy and make me feel productive. Most of my photographs are from months ago - before all of my fibromyalgia-related appointments and starting a part-time AAT course. I will try to take some new photographs soon, but will keep posting the old ones until I run out.
2) Expect some gaps in posting. Some would say that's a good thing! When my photographs run out, I will try to make some profiles for the plants already on the blog - but this will take time.
3) Book reviews: As I can manage the fibromyalgia better I will be able to read more nature and plant books and will review them as I have in the past.
4) Science writing: I will try to write four posts per year on plant science - I've already done my four for this year, so the next will be in the first quarter of 2014. If you have any suggestions - let me know in the comments!
5) Desktop calendar photos: Jessica Burke who writes the Moss Plants and More blog makes calendar images from her moss photographs and I hope she won't mind if I do the same with my plant photographs. We're already into October, but I'll post one for this month anyway - to get me going!
6) Nature writing: As I am able to get out more again,I'll blog about some of the places I go. Sometimes it may well be a post about something nature I see down the street - but sometimes they're the most interesting places!

I think that's about it. I've probably missed something, but if so I'll make a new post and link back to this!

If you've got this far - thank you - while I always feel I'd continue the blog even if nobody reads it, it's always so nice and appreciated when people comment.

For more information on depression, see this video:
For more information on fibromyalgia, see this video:

Common Plume moth - Emmelina monodactyla

Date Photographed: 14/07/2013
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://www.eakringbirds.com/eakringbirds2/mothspterophoridae.htm

09 October 2013

Silver Y moth - Autographa gamma

Date Photographed: 17/07/2013
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=2441

08 October 2013

Book Review: Seed to Seed

Seed to Seed is a year-long narrative of a thale-cress plant that the author found in a churchyard. The book starts quite sparsely with a loose idea of documenting the life of a thale-cress plant and the entries for the first couple of months tend to be shorter and mainly filled with weather reports with some natural history writing. The author makes clear that this book is really for his children, so when reading I tried to keep this in mind.

I started this book at a bad time. Our cat was ill and subsequently we lost him, to what seems to be heart failure. I didn't know if I would continue reading this book, due to the writing not motivating me and the sadness of the time.

I thought this book would be a year in the life of a plant scientist and in the end it does sort of become this. While the natural history writing and the entries about the holidays the author takes with his family can be quite drawn out, Nicholas Harberd really comes into his own when communicating science. While the book, I felt, was a bit long; I did enjoy the entries about the plant biology research the author has been performing.

We hear a lot about the thale-cress plant research at John Innes Centre, especially about DELLAs which seem to restrain the growth of the plant so that it can respond to the environment rather than grow far too quickly regardless of environmental conditions and then die, perhaps without successfully creating seeds for the next generation.

For the science, this book is worth reading. But I learned that I could miss the first paragraph of most entries, which were weather reports, and many of the entries written while the author was on his holidays - without missing the science writing. Overall, I'm glad that I persevered as I feel that it is an important book.

07 October 2013

Field Bindweed - Convolvulus arvensis

Date Photographed: 20/07/2013
Location: Warminster
Resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convolvulus_arvensis
Notes: Found this species of bindweed providing lots of colour along a road verge. Flowers are smaller than the hedge bindweed, but to varying degrees the white flower is striped with pink.

04 October 2013

Five Fact Friday: Plant Hunters - George Forrest

1. George Forrest was born in 1873 in Falkirk and was initially employed as a pharmaceutical chemist. He died 1932 at the young age of 59 collapsing in the scenery he loved, while shooting a hobby that he enjoyed.
2. After a few different jobs, including being a sheep farmer in Australia. He eventually found himself becoming a plant hunter. He first expedition was to explore south-east Tibet and north-west China. With his own money he paid for thousands of Yunnan Chinese to be vaccinated against smallpox.
3. He was caught up in some fighting that was taking place in Tibet and was out of touch with his contacts for so long that news had been sent home of his death. Luckily, the foreign office put off sending his information to his family for as long as they could and they only mourned for a week before hearing that Forrest was alive and well. He was dismayed at the loss of his collection during his time evading the Tibetans and calculated that plants of 2000 species, seeds of 80 species, and 100 photographic negatives had been lost.
4. However, Forrest carried on, sailing home in 1906 with a large collections of seeds, roots, and plants. He returned many times, his later trips sponsored by the Rhododendron Society and added over 300 new species.
5. Among the new plants Forrest introduced, include: Primula bulleyana, Camellia saluensis, and Rhododendron sinogrande.

Musgrave, T. (1998) The Plant Hunters, London, The Orion Publishing Group

03 October 2013

Hemp Agrimony - Eupatorium cannabinum

Date Photographed: 28/08/2013
Location: Langford Lakes, Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/species/hemp-agrimony

02 October 2013

Book Review: Westonbirt - A celebration of the seasons

This book, published in 1995, is the first I've read about the great arboretum at Westonbirt. We've visited many times and enjoyed the different seasons. So I thought this it would be nice to get a view of seasonal change at Westonbirt from a different perspective.

The book starts well, with a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales. I'd never read anything written by Prince Charles before. This short foreword was captivating and set a high bar for the rest of the book.

While I'm glad that I read the book, which is separated into each of the four seasons, it fell short for me for a few reasons. The first is that while the writer tries to take us on a journey around Westonbirt, mentioning many of the drives and avenues - there is no map -so as a reader it's hard to orientate yourself and get the full impact of context. Secondly, other than seasons, there is no connectivity between writing and photographs. Each season has four pages of writing followed by a series of photographs - what has been talked up in the writing may not appear in the photographs or it may be a very small photograph. While leads me on to the third 'problem', the form factor of the book is too small for such a book. Some photographs are so small that even a reader of good eyesight can struggle to see any of the detail.

So, while I am glad that I read it, I wouldn't read it again. However, it has inspired me to look for other books about the arboretum. If anything, it would be a great introductory book for anyone looking to visit for the first time as it shows that regardless of the season you plan to visit - there is much to see and enjoy.

01 October 2013

Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae

Date Photographed: 23/07/2013
Location: Green Lane wood, Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=urticae