The last few months have been incredibly busy for me with the final push of fieldwork for the Atlas 2000. This project, which aims to produce a New Atlas of the Flora of Britain and Ireland, has prompted a phenomenal amount of plant recording across Britain and Ireland, resulting in both a far better picture of the state of our flora, and some exciting new discoveries. I’ll report on these in the next edition of the newsletter - time and space have unfortunately conspired against me this time.
Exciting developments regarding recording are also occurring closer to home. We are extremely pleased that the School of Biological Sciences (SBS) have been able to employ a recently graduated student, Scott Hand, to look into cataloguing the plant collections at Treborth. Such records are absolutely vital to modern Botanic Gardens, and Treborth can now feel it is beginning to catch up! Scott has kindly written a report of his activities, and we would like to thank the SBS for all their help. As Scott says, maintaining and improving the database is now partly up to the Friends, so please help if you can.
The main event in the next few months will be the Annual General Meeting on Thursday 14th October, 1999. As with our first AGM last year, we hope that this will be well attended. To encourage you to come, we are throwing ourselves to the lions with a talk and debate on a controversial subject - GMO’s. The media’s attention on GM foods usually takes a pretty unbalanced view, with the word “Frankenstein” appearing in far too many headlines. We are very pleased that Dr Chris Gliddon, deputy head of the School of Biological Sciences, has agreed to give us the scientific background to the debate with a talk entitled "Genetically Modified Organisms in the Environment". Full details appear in the Diary.
The AGM means that it’s subscription time again! Enclosed is a form for your October 1999 to October 2000 Subscriptions. Obviously, we hope that you will continue to support the Friends, and feel that the small subscription we ask is well worth the Newsletter and the many diverse events we hold each year. Treborth has already benefited enormously from your support, and we look forward to taking the Gardens into the new millennium with you as Friends.
My Atlas 2000 work has seen me absent from Wales for many weeks, and it is again entirely due to other members of the Friends Committee that this Newsletter has been possible. Many thanks indeed to all those that have helped. The next edition is due out in January. As always, all articles will be gratefully received; please submit any contributions to me by 1st December 1999 (please note my new e-mail address below).
Trevor Dines (Newsletter Editor)
Rhyd y Fuwch, Bethel, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 3PS.
“Topics for Modern Botanic Gardens”
A Report on the PlantNet Conference, 9-11 April 1999.
This was the title of the PlantNet conference held at Trinity College Carmarthen and hosted by the National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW). PlantNet is an abbreviation for “The Plant Collections Network of Britain and Ireland”, an organisation that aims to promote the conservation value of plant collections held by Botanical and private gardens. It was launched in March 1996 and Treborth Botanic Gardens was one of the 34 Founder members.
On registration delegates were greeted and shown to their accommodation by volunteers of the "Friends" of NBGW. They were very much in evidence throughout, attending lectures and helping in various ways. It was interesting to have the opportunity to chat with some of them and to learn about all the work they do at the garden. It was a bit staggering to hear that they had to pay £50 for the privilege but I am sure they get some worthwhile perks and a lot of satisfaction from helping in the development of such an exciting enterprise.
The first gathering of the conference was the inaugural meeting of the PlantNet Records Group. The importance of well documented plant collections for conservation, education and research was emphasised. Also the value of co-operating and networking between similar organisations. Treborth has now made a start on computerising our plant collections and should in future be able to make a valuable contribution.
Saturday and Sunday mornings were taken up with lectures, eight in all, starting with Professor Stirton (Director of NBGW) and followed by Ivor Stokes (Director of Horticulture at NBGW). Other speakers were Professor Blackmore from the Natural History Museum, Dr Walden from Trinity College Dublin, and Dr Rae from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
A tour of Middleton Hall was scheduled for the Sunday afternoon but as I wished to leave after the morning sessions I took the opportunity to join a small group being shown round the latest developments by the Curator, Wolfgang Bopp, on the Friday evening. In spite of being handicapped by excessive rains, considerable developments since our visit last September were evident. I will leave further comment on the garden to our report following our 1999 visit.
Apart from the organised programme it was useful to have discussions with some of the other 80 or so delegates representing fifteen Botanic Gardens and various other organisations with plant collections.
Pauline Perry (Chairman)
A Plant Database for Treborth Over the past couple of months or so, many of you may have noticed a figure hunched over the computer in the lab at Treborth (you’ve probably also heard him muttering expletives followed by the name Bill Gates). The reason for this is that I had been employed by the university, firstly to investigate the various computer programs available for the management of plant collections and also to make a start on cataloguing the live plant collection at Treborth.
After looking into the systems available and weighing up the pros and cons of each, we decided to install a program called ‘BG Recorder’ (no prizes for guessing what the ‘BG’ stands for!).
The program came free with institutional membership of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) - a useful thing in itself to the garden. BG Recorder is a relational database which will, eventually, allow us to keep track of individual plants within the garden and record virtually any aspect of a species’ history, medicinal uses, native distribution, location within the garden, who collected the plant, etc. It has also been programmed to produce labels for the plants once they are ‘in the system’. It uses Microsoft Access 97’ as a database platform and therefore, being a windows program is reasonably user friendly, although Access experience is desirable.
This is where you the Friends come in. The program is very comprehensive and the collection at Treborth isn’t small, so to complete the database fully we desperately need people, preferably with some I.T. experience, to help with data inputting. If you have a particular interest in a certain part of the collection (such as the shrubs or trees, the succulents, or perhaps plants from a certain area) or you just have some time free and would like to get involved please contact Nigel Brown. It is very important for the Garden that we build and maintain a complete database of the live collection as soon as possible.
My work in selecting and setting up the database is now complete. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr Chris Gliddon and Dr Adrian Bell for allowing me the opportunity to gain experience of working in a Botanic Garden and also to say thanks to Nigel, Mike, Keith and all the members of the Friends I met during my time at the garden who made it thoroughly enjoyable (I won’t mention Mr Gates).
FRIENDS OF TREBORTH EVENTS The Plants and Birds of South Stack, Anglesey
Wednesday 9th June, 1999
40 friends joined Trevor Dines and Nigel Brown on a fine summer’s evening to explore the fascinating wildlife of Anglesey’s highest sea cliffs. Here at South Stack auks and other seabirds breed in significant numbers and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) provides wardening and interpretation facilities at Ellens Tower. The rarest species, Puffin attracted most attention - a small number obliged us with excellent telescope views as they lounged outside their cliff burrows in the evening sun. Overhead, two Peregrines patrolled the uplifting air currents whilst 19 Chough formed an undisciplined group tumbling this way and that, their coarse exuberant calls cutting across more familiar sounds of sea and birds.
It is not only birds that make South Stack so special. The wind and salt pruned maritime heath forming a neat and often colourful low mantle over the acid, age worn Pre Cambrian rocks, is a scarce and distinctive plant community restricted to a relatively small percentage of the western fringes of the British Isles. It harbours great rarities such as Spotted Rock Rose (Tuberaria guttata ssp. breweri) whose maroon blotched, small yellow petals lay like discarded tissuelets, their attractive function completed by noon, where upon they fall naturally. On the cliff edge we admired the tenacity and considered the rarity of two endemic plants - one a type of Sea Lavender (Limonium britannicum ssp. celticum) recorded locally along the coast of north west Wales and north west England, a second, Spathulate Fleawort (Tephroseris integrifolia ssp. maritima) entirely restricted to cliff faces between South Stack and Porth Dafarch and found nowhere else in the world.
Along with more familiar coastal plants such as Thrift (Armeria maritima), Sea Campion (Silene vulgaris), Sheepsbit (Jasione montana) and Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum) these botanical glories form the jewels in the crown of one of the finest coastscapes in Wales.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
Social Evening at the Welsh Mountain Zoo
Friday 9th July, 1999
I answered the ‘phone and a rather hurried sounding Pauline announced that, “.. if we could be at the Zoo by 6.30pm, Tony Jackson, the Horticultural Director, would give the Friends a guided tour of the gardens” - in addition to our planned supper and social evening.
So naturally, on July 6th we were there on time, along with some 25 Friends, feeling privileged to be enjoying the warm evening sunshine in a quiet, peaceful Zoo devoid of all other visitors.
As good as his word, Tony Jackson introduced us to the garden’s history. Tony’s parents bought the Flagstaff Estate in 1963 and set about turning it into the now famous Welsh Mountain Zoo - but not without considerable research into the site’s history and layout of the original gardens.
Designed and laid out by the 19th century landscape architect Thomas Mawson - who was to become renowned for such gardens as Little Onn Hall, Stafford and as the author of the ‘The Art & Craft of Garden Making” published in 1900 - the gardens were to complement a substantial house and accompanying buildings. Although only the stables and the lodge were ever built, the gardens, greenhouses, bothy and potting shed were virtually completed and much of the original layout can still be seen. But, to give a little more erudite flavour to this, a descriptive extract from the CADW Register follows at the end of this report*.
As well as horticultural director, Tony is a keen ‘gardener’ - although I do not envy his circumstances with thousands of visitors every year trying their best to undo his good work - and, among his many contacts, he has recently been ‘cultivating’ connections with Russia. This has yielded some very promising garden plants (especially in the Asteraceae) which are now being grown at the Zoo and I look forward to seeing how well they fare in such very different conditions to their homeland.
After a tour of the gardens and reptile house (which, I am ashamed to say, seemed to interest the Friends more than the gardens!) we retired to the Treetops restaurant for an excellent supper and, speaking personally, a very acceptable little claret. This to the accompaniment of deep, throaty growlings of a lion whose enclosure the restaurant hovers above.
As well as housing and breeding exotic animals, the Zoo is involved in the conservation of native British animal species - notably the Red Squirrel and the Otter, and colonies of both are thriving at the zoo. To the envy of the rest of the Friends, a small group ‘discovered’ these before supper and came to regale us of their find in the restaurant. As soon as we were decently able to empty our plates (and glasses), the majority of the remainder set out on the search.
The otters were rather shy and elusive, and only a few managed a glimpse, but the red squirrels were a delight. At least, this is what I am told - I managed to loose myself in the woods and never found their enclosure. I did, however, find the stone clad resting place of Walter Whitehead’s ashes - just by the ostrich pens...
David Toyne (Publicity Officer)
*Extract from The CADW Register of Parks and Gardens in Wales:
The Flagstaff, now occupied by the Welsh Mountain Zoo, is a 37-acre estate on high ground above Colwyn Bay.
At the end of the nineteenth century the land was purchased by a Manchester surgeon, Dr Walter Whitehead, who commissioned the architect Dan Gibson to design a house and the landscape architect Thomas Mawson to lay out the gardens.
The gardens were made in 1898-99, along with the gatehouse, outbuildings and glasshouses. But the grand mansion planned was never built, and Whitehead lived in retirement in the gatehouse. This is situated to the south side of the gardens, next to the Mochdre road. It is a two storey half-timbered and rendered building, in vernacular style, with a central arch around mullioned windows. It is now used as zoo offices. The house was to have been situated between the east range of outbuildings and the present rockery pools to the north.
Since 1963 the gardens have been the home of the Welsh Mountain Zoo, and have been overlain by Zoo structures. However, enough of the (original garden) fabric remains to be able to discern the general layout.
A drawing of the proposed layout of the gardens by Thomas Mawson, (in ‘The Art & Craft of Garden Making’ by Thomas Mawson, 1900), shows formal compartments to the south and east of the (proposed) house, laid out with simple rectilinear beds, walls and glasshouse ranges.
David Toyne has a copy of ‘The CADW Register of Parks and Gardens in Wales- Ref: PGW (C) 69’ and a first edition of ‘The Art & Craft of Garden Making’ by Thomas Mawson, and is willing to allow Friends to refer to them.
Powis Castle and Glansevern Hall
Unfortunately, this trip had to be cancelled because of insufficient numbers to make it worthwhile for the owners of Glansevern to give a guided tour. We shall try again in spring or early summer next year.
The cover of this Newsletter shows a frond of Oak Fern, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, which are a lovely apple green with contrasting black stems. This native fern is found amongst rocks and boulders in mountainous areas throughout Britain, and makes a very welcome addition to the rock garden. Please note, however, that it is widely available from good nurseries and should never be collected from the wild!
WEATHER AND WILDLIFE
April - June 1999 You might well have been fooled into thinking it was midsummer when temperatures rose to 20oC on 1st April. With temperatures no lower than 14oC for most of the subsequent night it proved a moth rich evening (128 individuals, 17 species) including a single specimen of Lead Coloured Drab, a local species.
The following morning dawned with a loud and varied chorus from Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Goldcrest, 3 species of Tits, Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Sandwich Terns just arrived from equatorial Africa screeched through the Strait whilst up to 15 Siskins busied themselves in the oaks, occasionally joining in the general chorus. By the 4thtwo more summer visitors, Blackcap and Willow Warbler were contributing to the splendid song. Even as they arrived however winter visitors such as Wigeon and Teal left the Menai Strait to breeding grounds further north in Europe.
By 5th April one of the loveliest spectacles of spring was at its brilliant best – Wild Cherry’s (Prunus avium) white blossom stole the show whilst beneath their flowering branches sprang fleshy green fronds of Adder’s Tongue Fern (Ophioglossum vulgatum), over 100 in primitive profusion, their curious spore laden sacks just discernible and intact.
Bluebells opened this week and numerous trees and shrubs acquired delicate new foliage, best of all the Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). Summer migrants poured in during the second week of April, their northerly progress interrupted by overnight cloud and drizzle on 7/8th resulting in wall-to-wall Willow Warbler song for a few memorable morning hours on 8th April, the majority journeying on as brighter clearer conditions developed in the afternoon.
By the 12th April however a cold, showery northerly air-stream provided a rude welcome for spring’s tender creations ripping blossom in bud from Japanese Cherries and chilling the nestlings of Herons and Raven alike in their pine-top edifices by the Strait. Clear sharp nights gave good views of Mars, low in the south east and Venus, magnificent in the south west.
A return to a southerly airflow on 20th offered blossom and birds a welcome reprieve. Despite bud losses Prunus ‘Kanzan’ emerged in pink splendour whilst at the woodland edge the Central European shrub Staphylea pinnata displayed elegant creamy cascades of flowers. Close by the glasshouses the honey scent of Euphorbia mellifera was a treat.
Goldcrests made several surprise visits into the glasshouses, probing assiduously for mini-beasts whilst another green and yellow wonder on a bigger scale made sure it caught attention on 23rd April – a Green Woodpecker yaffled from the ultimate branch of the tallest tree in Treborth much to the annoyance of a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker resident in the same tree. For 10 minutes they fled their favourite tree and chuntered at the red and green newcomer from a safe distance until eventually with deeply undulating flight and mischievous yaffle it departed to take up a new vantage point at the eastern limit of the garden, its laugh gradually receeding amongst the general chorus.
The following morning at 0543 hours precisely the curator’s sleep was interrupted by one of the most welcome sounds of spring – a Cuckoo singing by the glasshouses loud and clear. It has been several years since the last Cuckoo was recorded at Treborth so despite the early hour this was a very welcome event. Later in the day a few more summer visitors appeared – a flight of newly arrived Swallows traversed the garden. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Holly Blue butterflies were emerging in the spring sunshine.
Despite a fine warm start and end, April had seen plenty of mixed weather with ground frosts, snow lying on 14th and a total of 94.2 mm (3.75 inches) of rain.
May proved drier (51.5mm, 2 inches of rain) but not particularly warm (22oC on 27th and 20oC on 4th were exceptional ) the sunniest days coinciding with north easterly air-streams. Venus and Mars shone brightly in the evening sky at the beginning of the month with Arcturus and Capella as well as all the stars of Leo stretched across the southern and western horizon.
The garden was looking fine with the Rock Garden in full flush, and trees and shrubs at the peak of flowering and their canopies freshly expanded. Orange tip butterflies appeared from 5th May and by mid month spring and early summer moths such as Poplar Hawk and Muslin moth were on the wing. However moth numbers were low, a pattern which was to be repeated throughout the summer months, a legacy perhaps of the exceptionally poor year in 1998.
By contrast numbers of thrushes (Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrush) were markedly high this year especially Song Thrush, 5 pairs of which each raised two broods in the 2 hectares of the main garden. Robins nested at the base of a Phormium tenax clump on the Keyhole border whilst at least 4 pairs of Bullfinch took advantage of some rather overgrown specimen shrubs. A striking and rather uncommon toadstool, Stropharia aurantia, turned up on decaying wood chip strewn on a mixed border.
June experienced good growing weather with reasonable summertime temperatures day and night (max 24.5oC on 26th min night temp, 5oC on 8th) as well as sufficient rain to sustain lush growth (total 90mm, 3.6 inches) which, conveniently, seemed to fall mainly overnight eg 22.7mm (0.9 inches) on the night of 19/20th and 14.8mm (0.6 inches) on the night 26/27th June. The highest moth catch of the month was 124 moths of 41 species on 29/30th, a night on which we recorded Diamond back moth (Plutella xylostella), a migrant micro moth from southern Europe and north Africa. Another micro moth, Apomyelois bistriatella subspecies neophanes, represents a significant northerly extension of its previously known range (south England and Shropshire). The larva of this species feeds on fungi associated with recently burnt heathland. An adult was trapped on 18/19thJune and coincidentally, Debbie Evans, a Friend and also moth recorder for Caernarvonshire recorded one in her garden near Port Dinorwic.
By day there were surprisingly few butterflies despite suitable flying weather and the flowering of the long grass plots. During the last week of June however Ringlets appeared in reasonable numbers and day-flying 6 Spot Burnet moths could be seen pollinating Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) of which there were at least 1326 flowering stems. This year’s count of Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) was 9 with an additional specimen on the playing fields bank where the Yellow Bird’s Nest (Monotropa hypopitys) produced a record 8 flower spikes. Common Twayblades (Listera ovata) flowered widely in the meadow areas. Nesting activity was intense this month and there were successful outcomes for several pairs of birds closely associated with the main building and glasshouses. Song Thrushes raised 3 young in the Clematis montana on the east wall despite all the comings and goings whilst Blackbirds nested successfully in the large Bottle-brush Bush (Callistemon rigidus) in the Cool House. Robin and Wren bred successfully in the Tropical and Temperate House (a pair of each species in each glass house) with one of the Wren pairs choosing a safe nest site amongst the prickly frond bases of a Chamaerops palm.
However, the terns in the Menai Strait were not successful. Eventually they returned from their migratory journey from Africa in the second half of June to breed on Ynys Gorad Goch but after only a few days they deserted the place and the summer has seemed incomplete without their usual breeding activity.
Nigel and Daniel Brown
The “Keyhole Beds” at Treborth Botanic Garden The first cultivated beds reached on entering the garden are referred to as the keyhole beds due to their unusual configuration. Volunteers have taken on the care and planting of these beds. The broadest bed adjacent to the road has some well settled plants of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax), Yucca, and various Cistus. In some of the gaps clumps of Digitalis grandiflora have been added, and round the palm Trachycarpus fortunei in the "hole" a circle of Papaver spicatus.
Two long rectangular beds protrude towards the central lawns. At the end of one is a small round bed containing a small commemorative tree from South Africa - Widdringtonia cupressoides (nodiflora). Widdringtonia is a small genus endemic to Southern Africa belonging to the Cupressaceae. A large plant of pampas grass occupies the end of the other bed.
Two problems have tended to limit planting in these beds. Drainage in the area is poor and the soil remains sticky and heavy for a long period in the wetter months of the year. Considerable quantities of grit have been incorporated in an attempt to alleviate this problem. This spring the long beds were surrounded by wire netting to overcome the devastation of many plants by rabbits. The netting spoils the appearance of the plantings and it would be good to find another solution to the rabbit problem. Interestingly the unprotected Digitalis have not been touched by rabbits whereas the poppies were eaten almost to ground level.
It was decided to fill the bed next to the Widdringtonia with South African plants. A clump of Hesperantha (Schizostylis) coccinea has survived for several years. Kniphofia plants badly eaten are beginning to recover. The centre of the bed now has a small plant of Sparrmania africana (Tiliaceae family) with large softly hairy light green leaves. This is normally a tender evergreen small tree. Having a spare cutting from a plant growing under glass we decided to try it outside. The genus was named for Anders Sparrman a Swedish botanist who (whilst a member of Captain Cook's second expedition in 1772) collected plants extensively in the Cape.
Agapanthus can conveniently be divided into two groups. Those from the moister mountain grassland in inland areas of South Africa are deciduous and hardy. One of the plants previously grown outdoors belongs to this group and is possibly A. campanulatus or one of its hybrids. It has produced several blue umbels this summer. The other three plants are evergreen and more doubtfully hardy. They were previously grown in pots in the cool house but one plant produced flowers.
The genus Diascia has grown enormously in popularity in recent years with many new cultivars being introduced. We have planted D. vigilis, a vigorous creeping species which flowered well in mid summer. It has the usual racemes of pink flowers with twin spurs from the upper lobes and a yellow and maroon window. Pollination of this genus in nature is by specialised bees which visit to collect an oil produced in the spurs. A more delicate related plant Nemesia caerulea "Innocence" with white flowers has also done well. Although a perennial it tends to be half-hardy so we aim to grow it from cuttings each year. To fill the bed we have put in some osteospermum and pelargoniums and an annual Dimorphotheca with yellow and orange flowers. A pot-ful of Eucomis comosa is probably tender and may not flower but has handsome leaves. The planting has been largely a trial and rather haphazard. We shall aim to make it more artistic next year!
In the other long bed Nigel kindly indulged my wish to try out some representatives of two families, Anthericaceae and Asphodelaceae, until recently lumped into the large and variable family Liliaceae. Unlike the true lilies they do not have bulbs but survive the dormant period with fleshly roots.
Of the Anthericaceae three species in two genera have been planted, all originating from Europe. Paradisea lusitanica planted in 1997 has now formed a large clump and produced its racemes of white flowers in June. A good clump of Anthericum ramosum was eaten to the ground by rabbits early in the year but after a few months of TLC it was growing well again and replanted and produced branched inflorescences of star-like white flowers also in June. Anthericum liliago has not flowered but with protection may do so next year.
Asphodelaceae representatives cover five genera and distributions from South Africa, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. Most familiar to gardeners will be the Kniphofia (caulescens) included mainly to add some early colour to the bed. Two genera are native to Europe and parts of Asia. Asphodelus should produce racemes of white flowers, easily confused with Anthericum. Asphodeline species tried have yellow flowers but so far none of the plants introduced to this bed have flowered, in part due to rabbit damage. The species of Bulbinella grown in Britain come from New Zealand and our plants of B. angustifolia flowered in June. Bulbine frutescens originates from South Africa. We have produced many plants in the heated glasshouse so decided to see how they would do outside in the summer. Although they have fleshy leaves and come from arid habitats the plants have produced flowers and survived the excessive rains.
Pauline Perry (Chairman)
1973 – 1999
On Sunday, March 28th, 1999 Kellie Aldred, a student member of the Friends of Treborth, was fatally injured in a car accident in Rhos-on-Sea.
Kellie was an undergraduate in the School of Biological Sciences during the 1997 – 1998 academic year and then transferred to Psychology in September 1998. She was a very popular and caring student who made many friends in School of Biological Sciences, friendships which were retained despite the change in her studies.
Amongst her many contributions to undergraduate life she arranged an outstanding programme of lectures for the University Bird Group this year, whilst away from college she was a devoted carer for handicapped young people.
Kellie’s parents kindly requested that their daughter’s University books be made available for use by students, staff and Friends in the University and as a result a number now reside at Treborth. These include an outstanding long essay entitled ‘Plants and Medicine’ which Kellie wrote in her first year at University, extracts of which will appear in the next Friends Newsletter. The School of Psychology has decided to instigate an academic prize for first year undergraduate achievement in Kellie’s memory.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
Botanists Follow a Very Ancient Tradition! Ötse the Iceman has been in the news recently: he was found in a glacier close to the border between Italy and Austria in 1991, where he had been entombed in ice since the Bronze age, around 5000 to 6000 years ago. Recently I was able to visit him in the splendid new museum that has been specially built for him in Bolzano-Bozen, Italy, and strongly recommend anyone in the Trentino area to go there.
Much of his clothing, and the many items of equipment that he carried with him are remarkably well preserved by the ice. 18 different species of wood have been identified from his equipment - to mention only some of them, yew was used for the axe haft and the longbow stave, viburnum and dogwood for arrow shafts, hazel was bent around for the frame of his rucksack (linked together by larch slats), the retoucher (used to sharpen flint implements) was part of a lime branch with a hardened stag-antler pushed through the pith, ash was used for the knife handle, and the knife scabbard was knotted string made from lime-bast. Each tool was made of a species having physical properties suited to the purpose. He carried two birch-bark containers, and in one of them were Norway maple, juniper and spruce leaves, believed to have been used as insulation around embers for a fire. He used birch sap as a glue, and also carried a species of fungus that grows on birch (probably for medicinal use, as it contains a disinfectant and has styptic properties).
Presumably every herbivore needs to be able to distinguish between plant species to some extent, but when did humankind become as discriminating about the uses of plant products as Ötse the Iceman?
Pat Denne (Committee Member)
From our Foreign Correspondents…
When Bangor botany students graduate they often seem to disperse abroad for work or pleasure. The following extracts from recent correspondence received at Treborth gives us a flavour of their adventures.
From Eve Harvey, Spitzbergen (Plant Biology graduate, 1999), now working with University of Aberdeen team and Norwegian biologists:
“quite cold – 4oC, lots of reindeer! Barnacle and pink footed geese – sandpipers and snowplovers everywhere, arctic skuas. Arctic foxes too – which are cute! Work is fine, setting up experiments in field – cutting Luzula with scissors, for grazing experiments. Identifying and counting/marking plants. Get cold hands and feet. The dwarf Salix and buttercups are flowering – lots of pretty alpine flowers appearing – having fun identifying them. Only 5 other people in cabin with no water and no electricity but the people are easy going. Hope everything OK at Treborth (I am dreaming of greenery!)”
Gary O’Connor (Plant Biology graduate, 1998) writes from New Delhi, India after trekking in Himalaya foothills:
“This really is a botanist’s paradise. On the second day we stopped counting and recording because our brains had overloaded already with names and details. Highlights included finding a Calanthe sp., a beautiful yellow ground orchid, at about 2600m. Rhododendron anthopogos dominated the ridge top, where we found Thermopsis, Roscoea, Picrorhiza, Parachetus, Cordydalis sp., and Primula. Stunning. A carpet of blue and white anemones, mixed with wild strawberry and red potentilla, and upon close inspection 3 sp. of Gentian, covered the grazed meadows between 3300 – 3600m. The views by the way were equally stunning, it is hard to believe that botany can lead to such heady heights. We intend to venture above 4000 – 4500m mark soon, where the true ephemeral alpines lives, I can’t wait.”
Gary’s letter ends with a comprehensive list of 56 species found flowering between 1700m and 3600m as he walked up through coniferous forest, into broadleaf woodland and finally into grazed alpine meadows above the tree line.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones, founder members of the Friends of Treborth Botanic Garden and proprietors of Crug Farm Plants near Port Dinorwic have kindly donated an interesting selection of hardy and tender plants which they have collected under licence from the Far East. These include two striking species of Araceae (the Arum family) – Amorphophallus paeonifolia from the Philippines with a single stoutly upright dissected mottled leaf 1.5m x 1.5m (we eagerly await its flower!) and Arisaema thunbergii ssp. autumnalis with extraordinary whip-like long spadix and smartly striped spathe. Other tender or half-hardy specimens include a delicate leaved Schleffera microphylla which can exist as an aerial rooting climber, epiphyte or independent shrub. Outdoor plants include Viburnum foetidum var. rectangulatum and Deutzia taiwanensis. Plants of known wild origin such as these are the most valuable contributions a botanic garden can receive and we are extremely grateful to Bleddyn and Sue.
Our library of botanical and horticultural books has been significantly augmented by two recent donations. Miss Ivy Hodge of Lon-Y-Bryn, Bangor has given over 100 titles covering her many gardening interests including alpine plants, whilst Ms Catherine MacAndrew of Guildford, Surrey who graduated with an Honours Degree in Plant Biology at Bangor in 1996 has donated a highly useful selection of student texts on botany. These recent additions will be kept in the main laboratory and along with existing titles are available for use by the Friends. We are very grateful to Ivy and Catherine and also to Margaret Connell who kindly catalogued the new collections.
Nigel Brown (Curator)
During August a number of fine clumps of Cyclamen planted by Len Beer in the early 1970’s were removed from their growing place beneath the large ash tree at the western end of the garden. If you see any activity in the garden and adjacent woodland which causes concern, please contact Nigel Brown (Curator) as soon as possible on 01248 353398.