Connecting people and plants

SNH’s Iain Macdonald was just one of around 175 people with a passion for wild plants at an unofficially record-breaking meeting in Edinburgh recently…

Not long ago I was sitting in a room surrounded by botanists, probably the single largest gathering of field botanists in Scotland – ever.  The ‘room’ was a lovely lecture theatre at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) and the cause of such an accumulation of plant enthusiasts was the annual Scottish Botanists’ Conference.


(C) @nature_recorder

Now, if a vision of stereotypical botanists just entered your head – were young and enthusiastic students part of that vision?  Let’s just say that I am starting to feel a little old all of a sudden and perhaps it’s time to ditch the sandals.

The brilliant display of wild plant related exhibits including a poster produced by SNH’s Jenny Park on how to avoid introducing invasive non-native species. Invasive non-native plants invade habitats, spread quickly and out-compete native species. Some can be destructive and others can be harmful to human and animal health.


The conference included workshops on some difficult to identify plants, such as conifers and a chance to see some of the three million herbarium specimens held at RBGE.  I can still recall being amazed on my first visit to RBGE as a student, holding a leaf which had been collected by Charles Darwin.  I wonder if that leaf is still there?

And of course there were excellent talks.  The keynote speaker was Professor Richard Ennos of Edinburgh University who provided an eye-opening account on how our species has moved tree species back and forth across the globe.  The trouble, Richard pointed out, is that in doing so we also moved the things that make plants sick across the globe, introducing diseases to woodland where there was no resistance.  You can guess the outcome.


Further information on the threats posed by tree pathogens can be found in a recent paper written by Prof. Ennos, Joan Cottrell and two of SNH’s staff Jeanette Hall and David O’Brien:  Is the introduction of novel exotic forest tree species a rational response to rapid environmental change?- a British perspective, available as a free download at until 30 November.

I’m already looking forward to the first Saturday in November next year and hopefully  an even bigger gathering of botanists! You can see abstracts for all of the presentations from these year’s conference on the Botanical Society For Britain & Ireland website.

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