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Showing posts from May, 2014

The science of nectar

Nectar is that sweet reward that flowering plants provide animals in exchange for their services as pollinators. It sounds incredibly simple on one level – much like rewarding a dog with a treat after it obeys a command. However, dig a little deeper and you realise that the reproductive success of the plant is dependent on very subtle yet complex characteristics of this substance – including when it’s produced and how much is produced, as well as its very composition.
Flowering plants will optimise the characteristics of their nectar in order to influence the foraging behaviours of pollinators and ultimately improve their reproductive fitness. The characteristics of the nectar not only determine which pollinators are attracted and when they come, but how frequently they visit and how long they stay. Suddenly one realises that there is an extremely complex system of regulatory mechanisms behind nectar secretion, which have not only influenced the evolution of flowering plants, but of…

The Native Bluebell: Britain’s favourite flower in trouble

by Helen Roberts
It is a beautiful spring morning in May and I am taking my children for a walk. We are venturing to some local woods on the edge of the Mendip Hills, a stone’s throw away from our house.
The woods are secreted away in a limestone gorge. The stubby cliffs of limestone are clothed in ivy and gradually open up into a steep sided valley. A tiny stream channels through the gorge; tributaries often disappearing down sink holes. We trek across a ploughed field to the gate that lets us into the wood.
As we pass through the kissing gate, there is an overwhelming smell – it’s the heady perfume of the native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta. The woods are carpeted in vibrant blue (the colour almost glows it is so vivid), dotted with ferns and intermingled with wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa), Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis), wild garlic (Allium ursinum), greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) and yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon). It is one of my favourite places f…

The 2014 Easter Art and Sculpture Exhibition at the Botanic Garden

This is the second year in a row my family has worked off some Easter chocolate by biking to the University of Bristol Botanic Garden for the Easter Art and Sculpture Event. Unlike last year, however, when we were bundled against the cold, this year we basked in glorious sunshine. We’ve been so impressed with the quality of the art that this will be an annual event for my family...whatever the weather!
The Garden’s annual sculpture event was combined with the Friends of the Botanic Garden’s annual art exhibition, for the first time this year. This gave visitors a visual feast of outstanding artwork set in the backdrop of the garden in its full spring glory.

Over 2,800 visitors came to the gardens over the 4-day event. Events such as this, as well as the Bee and Pollination Festival, are important for the Botanic Garden as they reach beyond those interested in gardens – drawing in new audiences. This event brought in a range of West Country artists working in diverse mediums, from wat…