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Showing posts from May, 2016

The resilient plants of the western Mediterranean

By Helen Roberts A recent talk to the Friends by Dr Chris Thorogood on the flora of the western Mediterranean was tonic for those of us longing for warmer weather. For Chris, the western Mediterranean has always had great appeal having spent many summers teaching field courses to undergraduate students at the University of Bristol and the last five years conducting fieldwork for his new book, a field guide to the area.

"The flora of the Western Mediterranean is really special. The plants are able to grow in some fascinating but really harsh places," explains Chris. "Because of these severe conditions, plants have evolved numerous coping mechanisms in order to survive."

The region is extremely rich botanically, with over 10,000 different species, all of which are specially adapted to particularly taxing conditions. The area covers a huge geographical expanse incorporating the westerly Portuguese Algarve, to Italy in the east, the islands (Balearic Islands, Corsica …

The evolution of a predatory plant

By Nicola Temple We keep a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) in our bathroom. My son begged me for it, which inevitably means I look after it. Having seen these carnivorous little delights in the glasshouses at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, I have learned that humidity and moisture are key to its happiness - hence it's bathroom location and its constant immersion in a tray of water.
While I mostly leave my son to do the part he loves best - feeding - I can't deny my own fascination with it. The leaves, converted to ambush traps through evolution, have to have enough stimulation by an unsuspecting insect to warrant the plant investing the energy to snap the trap shut.  Once the trap is shut, the plant estimates the size of the prey based on the amount of stimulation of the sensory 'hairs' triggered by the trapped (and no doubt panicked) insect. If there is a sufficient signal from the sensory hairs, the plant starts to produce enzymes and proteins that will…

Floral visits to the western Mediterranean

By Helen Roberts A floral excursion to the western Mediterranean at this time of year appeals to many of us. The anticipation of warm weather, beautiful landscapes and a dizzyingly diverse range of exquisite wild flowers and I want to pack my bags in a flash. I certainly felt that way when I saw some of the images of the region’s wild flowers in a recent Friends' talk given by botanist Dr Chris Thorogood.
However, if you cannot escape overseas, then the Mediterranean collection at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden will give you a taste of some of the Mediterranean Basin species although you will have to wait till later in the year to see some of the flowers in bloom. 
If you do have a trip in mind though, here are a few of Chris Thorogood’s favourite spots to see the wild flowers of the western Mediterranean:
The Algarve, Portugal: This area has a diverse flora due to varied geology and weather with numerous endemic species and beautiful wild flower meadows. Cape St Vince…