IAPI Next Meeting Date 21st January 2017
Meeting reports 2016
Saturday 19th March Moulton College, near Northampton
Developmental sequences, with Roger Reynolds and Peter Mitchell
After Peter's brief introduction to the value but also difficulties of recording developmental sequences, Roger gave a PowerPoint presentation on the developmental sequences of plants that use bulbs, corms, rhizomes or tubers to survive the Page 2 Published in alternate months (February, April, June, August, October and December). Distributed by email to members. Copies can be printed on request for postal distribution (contact a Committee Member). unfavourable period of the year. This included the various modifications of plant parts to store food, production of adventitious roots, and appearance and operation of contractile roots to draw down the perennating organ into the soil. The afternoon was spent examining the large range of specimens brought by Roger, using dissecting microscopes for the finer details. To capture all this information for posterity, and to include some of the drawings made, Mary Brewin and Daphne Thompson will produce a full account of the meeting for Eryngium later this year. The meeting also took the opportunity to congratulate Roger on his RHS gold medal for his set of illustrations of trees and shrubs, recording the appearance of leaves, twigs, flowers and fruit throughout the year (see below). Val Oxley kindly brought along a book that she had obtained recently: Woods and Forests of Chile by Martin Gardner with illustrations from three Turkish artists trained at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The drawings were exquisite and the book handsomely produced, and it demonstrates the global links in botanical illustration, in this case across three continents. Developmental sequences seem to be flavour of the month. Val pointed out after the meeting that the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, USA, has an exhibition called Great Expectations running until 30th June. This is a selection of 36 artworks from the Hunt collection that capture "moments of developing stages". There is more on the Hunt Institute website (http://huntbotanical.org/exhibitions/show.php?123) including some of the artworks. Peter Mitchell
Saturday 16th January 2016 Winterbourne Botanical Centre
A new approach to botanical illustration: digital diversity, with Niki Simpson
After the AGM and a good lunch we sat down to listen to Niki Simpson who came to talk to us about her work which she calls digital botanical illustration. If you are unfamiliar with her work it is well worth visiting her websites: www.nikisimpson.co.uk or www.visualbotany.co.uk . Her original training was as a scientist (B.Sc., University of Sheffield), but she described herself as a person who was drawing plants for as long as she remembers. She became a successful botanical illustrator, obtaining a gold medal at the RHS, and began a career employed by the RHS at Wisley where she was involved in setting up the RHS Botanical Image Library. In 2003, helped by Peter Barnes, the head botanist at Wisley, she applied for a grant from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust to develop her digital recording. She described how the work of botanical illustrators from the past influences the approach to the work she now does. Their work attempted to describe with botanical reliability as many aspects and taxonomic features of a species as they could on one page of illustration. This is what Niki still does, but the great difference is that the components are digital images put together on to the page, and she has extended the process by including other data as well. In her words "These composite images can take many weeks, even months to create. They are based largely on digital photography, but may also contain scanning electron micrographs of pollen grains, flatbed scans, computer drawings and scanned hand-drawn work or photographic slides." The effect is highly informative but also artistically attractive (she was subsequently awarded two more RHS gold medals for the digital work as well). Each layout has, in addition to the plant illustrations, a title block giving Latin and well known common names, a colour reference for the main components like petals and leaves, a time line showing the months of flowering, and a set of symbols which indicate further information of botanical significance. Niki has used well known symbols like male and female but also developed some new ones to indicate habit, scent, etc., so that a lot of diagnostic botanical information can be presented through one illustration sheet. Although she sells printouts, much of what she is doing is aimed at digital displays on computers, iPads or smartphones. Her hope is to make it interactive to the extent that clicking on one component can lead to further levels of information, thus making it totally transportable on electronic devices into the field. She explained how she starts on an illustration by meticulously researching the botanical information, like correct and current Latin name, diagnostic features, and other information of botanical significance. She talked about making sure she had permission for collecting specimens or visiting sites. She is very careful to choose typical examples of the species. She also talked a little about where she works, how she photographs plant material and the software she uses. It was very easy to see why it took a long time to assemble all the components of an illustration. Although she is still demanding on herself to create the best composition, she said that she considered "botany more important than charm". She also explained that composition can be changed and a portrait image can relatively quickly be transformed into a landscape version. It was also very interesting to see how she viewed the future. Despite her new and very versatile techniques she pointed out that illustrators still can achieve things which photography cannot, particularly in the reconstruction of the appearance of plants from poor specimens, whether fresh or in a herbarium. One the other hand, archiving previous work she saw as an increasingly digital process. There was considerable interest and a lot of questions and it was a very informative two hours. The illustrators among us may flinch a little at seeing a new and very powerful technique emerging, but few can doubt that there will be a big future for Niki’s pioneering work in the scientific community. Roger Reynolds
Meeting Reports 2015
Meeting Report Saturday 14th November Juniper Hall Field Centre, Surrey Workshop on mosses and liverworts, with Liz Leech
As anticipated, Liz Leech’s workshop was one not to be missed. The new venue of Juniper Hall Field Study Centre at Mickleham served well and was an interesting house and grounds to see, even in the rain. The allocated room was light, full of microscopes, a good size for the eight attending (and nearly warm enough!). Liz was impeccably prepared for us with boxes of fine specimens each numbered for name labels and botanical details. Her PowerPoint presentation reminded us of the life cycle of bryophytes, the difference between mosses and liverworts, and the main genera. Her helpsheets and handouts set us on the road to being able to identify species for ourselves. The mosses themselves did the rest with their call for ever-better scrutiny for accurate drawing. This is another world, and one in which I will willingly be lost. Sally Pinhey
Meeting Report 1 Saturday 18th July 2015 National Museum of Wales
At out meeting in May 2014, Maureen Lazarus talked about the botanical illustrations held by the National Museum of Wales and invited members to visit the museum. On 18th July we visited the museum and were welcomed by Maureen and her colleague Dr Heather Pardoe. We first went to the herbarium room where specimens from around Wales are stored. I especially remember a pressed specimen of the Snowdon lily, and a landscape illustration of the mountain landscape where it is found painted by Dale Evans. Many other mountain plants were depicted in the painting. We then went upstairs and were shown original paintings by well known artists from the 1700s to the present day, as well as contemporaneous prints made of the botanical illustrations. Some were interesting for botanical aspects such as classification and plant structure, and some for artistic reasons, and occasionally both. We were shown a selection from nine large boxes which covered a wide range of subjects, media and artists. 1. Original prints of works by Redouté. 2. A selection of watercolours of carnivorous plants by present day artist Gillian Griffiths of Cowbridge. 3. Original prints of exotic plants with allegorical backgrounds, e.g. the night-blowing cactus (Cereus grandiflorus). Originally a watercolour drawn by Ehret, this was the source of a later coloured engraving and then a dramatic painting with an English churchyard in moonlight by Philip Reinagle that was included in Thornton's "Temple of Flora". 4. Some Victorian gouache paintings by Harold Drinkwater, a doctor in Wales. 5. Modern watercolours by Dale Evans of ferns and mushrooms. 6. Some amateur watercolours by a group of Victorian ladies who usefully recorded where and when they were painted. 7. Prints of plants from around the world, especially India, including a good picture of the banana, with a scale bar. We were allowed to study these illustrations for as long as we liked, but eventually they had to be packed away and we went back to the main museum for lunch or to look at other aspects of the museum. We were given a copy of "The Paradise Garden" published by the museum, which gave a good, clear and well illustrated history of botanical illustration. I spent some time in the geology exhibition, looking at the geological history of Wales. Being a July Saturday, it was very crowded and noisy with visitors and growling (?) dinosaurs! I will come back later at a quieter time.
Meeting Report 2 Sunday 19th July 2015 National Botanic Garden of Wales
The second day of the IAPI July weekend, took the form of a visit to the lovely National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire. The Garden is delightfully situated with glorious views over the surrounding Welsh countryside. Originally it was hoped to book a garden tour and hire a room for our visit, in line with previous IAPI outings, but on this occasion the Garden was hosting a recording of BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time, and alternative arrangements were not possible. The committee thought that members might like the opportunity to attend the recording and look around the Garden at leisure, picking up items that particularly interested them and to manage their own time, taking refreshment breaks as and when required. This proved to be an ideal solution as some members had more time available to look around than others. On the day, we were all very fortunate, because the weather forecast had been dismal with a prediction of wind and rain, causing some members to pack their wellington boots, as well as umbrellas and waterproof jackets. None of these were needed as we were bathed in sunshine, the good weather lasted all day, and the sun was still shining when my husband and I arrived home in South Yorkshire later that evening. The National Botanic Garden of Wales is beautiful, I was particularly impressed with the planting of day lilies, Hemerocallis in swathes of gold and bronze either side of the path as we entered the Garden. The party from IAPI rendezvoused in the Japanese Garden before setting off to explore, or book tickets for the BBC recording. Four of us decided to take advantage of the restaurant facilities for a welcome cup of coffee after a long drive from the Cardiff area. This gave us chance to look through the literature we had been given about the events and most importantly where to find them on the map. On our way to the restaurant we spotted the Apothecary’s Hall and noted that there was an exhibition of textile versions of wildflowers of Wales. These took the form of delightfully stitched squares which had been prepared by the Garden’s own stitching B. Later on, in the Glasshouse, we visited a touring exhibition about fungi prepared by the Edinburgh Botanic Garden, including textiles of fungi cleverly constructed to give a three dimensional effect, again within the limitations of a defined square. The Apothecary’s Garden was disappointing: it is undergoing reconstruction and many of the flower beds lay bare. We did look around an area that still held some plants but the labelling was poor or nonexistent and it looked neglected. The plantsman’s sales area, put together for the day, was appealing, with a selection of nurserymen’s stalls selling a variety of excellent well conditioned plants, but they were only there for the event. I am sorry to report that the Garden’s own nursery and plant sales area was not well stocked on this occasion, even the staff were apologising for the condition of some of the plants on sale there. In the centre of the Botanic Garden is the spectacular Great Glasshouse designed by Norman Foster. We wandered around the Mediterranean landscape dominated by a deep ravine, with rock terraces and rock faces, waterfalls and streams. In one area we saw beautiful South African proteas in flower, and nearby striking Australian banksia flowers nicely demonstrating converging evolution. Situated near the Great Glasshouse is the rockery, our visit was nicely timed to catch most of the plants flowering profusely. It was lovely to wander around the paths admiring the plants. I was particularly enthralled by the angel's fishing rod Dierama pulcherrimum. I had seen this plant at Powys Castle and I lined up the label and plant for a photograph, but Cistus purpureus showed up on the screen and I realised that was the name of the plant lurking behind the angel's fishing rod. Since returning home I checked out the name of a plant that has eluded me for some time, Melianthus major. It is grown in a garden in the village where I live, but I’ve never thought of it as being able to tolerate the northern climate. The owner of the plant didn’t know it’s name when I asked, so when I spotted it at the National Garden of Wales I took a picture of both plant and label. To my delight this label was correct. My dismay at the poor, non-existent or damaged labelling in some parts of the Garden was conveyed to someone from the Garden, who had the misfortune to ask if we were enjoying the day. The lady, who said she was in finance and not a gardener, apologised for the poor labelling in the rockery area. She explained that the lady responsible for the labelling was in hospital and her volunteer helpers were having difficulty coping without her direction. So there was an understandable reason for the problem. We were also told that the rockery area is to be redesigned so that it is more like an alpine garden. Other areas we wandered through showed a wonderful selection of herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs. Before leaving we went to a talk on the ‘Importance of Pollinators’ delivered by Dr Natasha de Vere, the Garden’s Head of Science, and Eric Robson, the chairman of Gardeners’ Question Time. It was an interesting session which took place in the observation area of the newly made Bee Garden. The importance of planting the ‘right’ plants for bees and other pollinators was discussed, and mention was made of the pollination of crops and the fashion of breeding ‘doubled’ flowers which become sterile and thus unable to produce seed. We had been to a talk earlier in the week at Art in Action, at Waterperry House near Oxford, about natural bee keeping, involving the making of dome shaped hives hung from trees, and using a pulley to lower them to the ground. The bees enter though the bottom of the hive. The exponents believe that by understanding how wild bees create their hives actually results in a healthy hive and helps to eradicate the varroa mite. The National Garden of Wales is certainly worth a visit if you have not been already. Due to the constraints of time we could only visit a small area, there is much more to explore. Our thanks go to the committee members who organised this wonderful weekend for members to enjoy, it was full of interest and it was a huge success. Valerie Oxley
Meeting Report Saturday 16th May 2015 Carnivorous plants Mitch Raymond
Mitch Raymond is the Partnerships Officer of the Carnivorous Plants Society, based in Birmingham, and he introduced us, with enthusiasm and intricate knowledge, to a range of carnivorous plants. After his fascinating talk, with many specimens to pass around, Mitch showed us further plants in a glasshouse in Winterbourne gardens. All carnivorous plants grow in mineral-deficient acid bog land or as epiphytes and supplement their need for nutrients by trapping and digesting insects. Many can be grown in pots in a low-nutrient medium of peat and perlite, watered with rainwater. (The CPS is actively seeking alternatives to peat although the volume used for carnivorous plants is very small.) Species of Nepenthes can be treated like a vine and are best grown in a bathroom for the low light and high humidity. Mitch's attention was first caught by the Venus flytrap although he now regards this as comparatively dull and the bulk of his collection is species of Sarracenia. Venus flytraps (Dionaea) catch insects by rapidly closing two-part leaves, like clapping hands. There are three trigger hairs and two touches within 20 seconds close the trap. It needs four good meals—a fly, occasionally a wasp— a year so is not a practicable flycatcher in the kitchen. Luckily the Venus flytrap is easily propagated because the existing native habitat in the south-eastern USA is much reduced in area. Several species of carnivorous plant are native to the U.K. Sundews (Drosera) trap insects on leaves covered with hair-like filaments bearing gluey glands which secrete enzymes to ‘digest’ the softer parts of the victim’s body. Also to be found growing wild is butterwort (Pinguicula) which traps tiny insects on its sticky leaves: a microscope reveals minute glandular hairs producing glue, while flat glands on the leaf surface secrete acids and enzymes. Tropical bog lands are inhabited by larger species of Drosera and Pinguicula. Unrelated to Drosera but having sticky glands of similar appearance are rainbow plants (Byblis) from Australia, again also with much restricted native habitat. The rainbow name comes from the glistening hairs in many colours. An assassin bug lives symbiotically on the plant. It has much wax on its body so is not trapped by the hairs and feeds on the flies which are caught. Grooves in the leaves trap the faeces from the bug and the plant gains nutrients as these decay. The pitcher plants of North America are species of Sarracenia in which the edges of the leaves join up to form vessels. Each tubular leaf has a ‘lid’ bearing nectar on the underside, so that insects fall into the tube and are digested therein. Slitting a tubular leaf reveals a residue of insect parts resistant to digestion. The cobra plants of California (Darlingtonia) have tubular leaves resembling a snake's head, complete with ‘hood’ and nectar-bearing ‘forked tongue’. An insect is attracted to the nectar and ventures inside the adjacent aperture, where the top of the ‘hood’ appears to have escape holes—then falls into the trap. The apparent escape holes are in fact thin membranes: the insect cannot escape but slides back down the slippery tube. Mitch Raymond with some Nepenthes pitchers. Perhaps the most spectacular pitcher plants are the species of Nepenthes, virtually indescribable, phallic in shape and alarming in detail. The leaves consist of a leaf blade near the base then a tendril formed by the midrib and then a tubular pitcher which is held vertical by a curve in the tendril portion of the leaf. The pitchers can be up to eight inches long. They can catch insects, frogs, mice and even—it is rumoured—rats. Again, there is nectar under the lid, slipperiness round the rim, and digestive juices inside the pitcher. There are many different varieties, but most like to perch above the ground on a tree-trunk so that the pitchers hang Page 3 Published in alternate months (February, April, June, August, October and December) Distributed by email to members Copies can be printed on request for postal distribution (please contact the Editor) down below. The most spectacular plants are be found in the mountain forests of Borneo, to where our lecturer, Mitch, was about to sojourn. It will be exciting to see his reports in due course. None of these traps or pitchers is the reproductive part of the plant, being purely to digest fauna. The flowers take various forms depending upon the species. The flower of Sarracenia would tax the ingenuity of any botanical artist who aimed to show the extraordinary structure of the floral parts, even though it is quite a large flower. Again, indeed, words fail me. In every case, however, the flowers of carnivorous plants contain anthers and a stigma in the usual way to produce seed. Having achieved fertilization by a visiting insect, the plant may then succeed in trapping it. Helen Ayers
Meeting Report Saturday 7th March 2015 Winter twigs Roger Reynolds and Peter Mitchell
At this meeting, 28 winter twigs tagged with letters were available to identify. The aim was to discuss and learn about the principles of twig identification and illustration. Before we got to the twigs, Peter Mitchell welcomed us all, including Julie, a new member, and three local botanical artists, Harriet, Susan and Kate, who joined us for the day. Introducing those 28 twigs that Roger Reynolds had provided, Peter explained that in the U.K. we are blessed with a wide range of native and predominantly deciduous trees and shrubs, though the variety makes identification more complex. By contrast, New Zealand’s trees and shrubs are predominantly evergreen and bring their own difficulties. A tip we were given was that in identifying twigs, buds are not inevitable: eucalyptus, for example, doesn’t form winter buds and bud scales, the leaves simply decreasing in size towards the branch tip. A few species have ‘naked buds’ with no scales to protect them, wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia) being one example. The wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) and elder (Sambucus nigra) have a similar habit. Inviting us to tackle those 28 twigs, he stressed the importance of observing the whole tree, if possible. Are there single or multiple stems, what is the branching pattern? Ash, for instance has a typical and coarse branching pattern. Look also for monopodial growth, where the terminal bud continues to grow as a central leader, for instance beech, or sympodial growth where the terminal bud ceases to grow and axillary buds develop. But, “most deciduous trees start monopodial and then give up.” Bark is also an obvious diagnostic tool, though as bark varies with age and twigs are usually only one, two or three years old, it needs to be used carefully. Look particularly for lenticels, the blisterlike breaks in the impervious bark that allow gas exchange between the interior of the stem and the surrounding air. Lenticels often form at the site of earlier stomata. Other important structural details include the length of nodes, the stem swellings at bud and leaf insertions. Equally, are the buds opposite, alternate or spiral? Are the buds on a small stalk, e.g. alder. Look for bud scales, the shape and general size of buds; those on beech are slim, those on ash are large and quadrangular and those on oak are clustered. Stipules offer another identification feature on some species, e.g. rose. Leaf scars are another very useful guide. They form when cells in the scar, the abscission layer, callus over, become rounded to seal the plant and prevent water loss. Towards the end of summer, the Page 2 Published in alternate months (February, April, June, August, October and December) Distributed by email to members Copies can be printed on request for postal distribution (please contact the Editor) plants moves valuable nutrients out of its leaves to store them in its twigs. For instance, the ‘nails’ in the characteristic leaf scar from a horse chestnut leaf are left by the vascular bundles, the xylem and phloem tissue that transports fluids around plants. These and other characteristics lend themselves to diagnostic keys, such as May and Panter’s, published by the Field Studies Council. C.T. Prime and R.J. Deacock’s key is widely available secondhand, in its sixth edition. The work has separate summer and winter keys, all its measurements are in imperial units and its illustrations have indicators to show the scale of magnification, but the book gives no list of the trees covered. The Vegetative Key to the British Flora by John Poland and Eric Clements, published by Summerfield Books, aims to help identify nearly 3,000 native and alien plants without flowers or fruit, with nothing more than a hand lens. John Poland is also working on another guide to give specific level identification for 340 trees and shrubs, though there is as yet no news of a publication date. And all those twigs? Some were fairly straightforward; most people identified most of them correctly. Others were less easy, taking more time and discussion and fewer people got so many right. And then there were a couple that proved distinctly difficult. The list is below, have a look and think how you might have got on. Twig identification notes A. Pedunculate oak, Quercus robur. Clustered terminal and supporting buds at tip. Difficult to differentiate from the turkey oak, Quercus cerris, without the acorn cup. B. Horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum. Buds are opposite; look for characteristic horseshoe leaf scars with evidence of vascular bundles appearing like holes for the nails. Sticky bud scales in spring. Saddle scar in the fork between twigs where the inflorescence occurred and has been shed. C. Beech, Fagus sylvatica. Somewhat similar to hornbeam in leaf, but twigs of hornbeam have buds pressed close to the twig. Beech buds are at about 45° from their supporting twigs and are relatively long and slim. D. Hazel, Corylus avellana. There are male and female buds, rounded and born on a slightly hairy stem. E. Alder, Alnus glutinosa. Alder retains its fruits which are a very good indicator. They look like cones although they are not true cones as on pines, spruces, etc. The buds are purplish and on a little stalk. F. Willow, Salix. There is only one bud scale, a clear diagnostic characteristic. G. Ash, Fraxinus excelsior. Stout twig with opposite and black buds. H. Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus. Quite big, green and opposite buds with big leaf scars. All maples have opposite buds. Norway maple has red buds. I. Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna. Thorny, very variable and with a tendency to produce flowering spurs. The thorns are whole shoots, modified and much reduced, with their cambium continuous with that of the twig on which they are carried. They are very difficult to remove from the plant. Contrast with rose "thorns" which are prickles, i.e. outgrowths of superficial cells and easy to remove from the stem. J. Elder, Sambucus nigra. Opposite buds, very few vestigial bud scales, conspicuous and very big lenticels on bark are a good diagnostic point. Dried elder pith was used as tinder. It is also used to mount specimens, holding them so that thin slices may be shaved for microscopic examination. K. Lime, Tilia × europaea. Classic example of sympodial branching: the terminal buds fail, producing a zigzag growth pattern and alternate buds. Think of the ‘fingers and thumb’ pattern of your hand. The big red bud scales are also characteristic. L. Lilac, Syringa vulgaris. Relatively big green opposite bud pairs, with clear leaf scars. Going along the stem, successive pairs of opposite buds are at 90° to each other (decussate). M. Poplar, Populus. Girdle scars, all round the twig, where bud scales dropped, mark the start of last year’s growth. N. Spindle, Euonymus europaea. Usually has green stems with opposite buds and shoots. O. Wingnut, Pterocarya fraxinifolia. Continuous, chambered pith. Naked buds, large male catkins, female bud that will develop red styles and dangling in catkins at up to 30 cm. P. Walnut, Juglans regia. Same family as wingnut. Chambered pith with air spaces, leaves alternate. Monoecious. Male flowers as catkins, female flowers clustered. Q. Sweet chestnut, Castanea sativa. This is almost the standard twig with big, paired alternate buds and clear leaf scars. R. Field maple, Acer campestre. Like sycamore, with which its twigs may be confused, has quite big, green and opposite buds with big leaf scars. S. Sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides. Stiff, dense and very thorny twigs and branches. Dioecious, flowers early on bare wood. T. Wayfaring tree, Viburnum lantana. Lateral buds with no bud scales. V. opulus has proper bud scales. U. Silver birch, Betula pendula. Quite slim, pointed and single buds alternate from either side of the twig and at alternate nodes are near 45° to the twig. V. Elm, Ulmus minor. Many elm twigs have corky ‘wings’ toward their bases, which may prove a helpful diagnostic feature. It may also be a symptom of Dutch Elm disease. Page 3 Published in alternate months (February, April, June, August, October and December) Distributed by email to members Copies can be printed on request for postal distribution (please contact the Editor) W. Mediterranean hawthorn, Crataegus azarolus. Closely related to hawthorn, a round thorny bush. Fruits, twice the size of C. monogyna haws, may, birds permitting, persist into spring. X. Liquidambar, Liquidambar styraciflua. Twigs often have corky wings. Also carries round, spiky, singly hanging fruit that can be mistaken for the fruit of plane, that is usually clustered. The fruit may stay on the tree well into the next season. Leaves look like those of maple but are alternate. Y. Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa. Thorny with very dark bark. Tends to flower later than the cherry plum, Prunus cerasifera with which it is easily confused. P. cerasifera twigs tend to be stiffer and P. spinosa branches more profusely. Gaynor and Robin Dickeson
January 2015 meeting report
Meeting Report Saturday 17th January 2015 Annual General Meeting, and social event
The afternoon session, after the formal AGM in the morning, was divided into two parts. First there was a presentation by Joyce Barrus on Diana Ruth Wilson and her paintings, followed by a brief résumé of the little known Wedderburn sisters as artists. Anne Bebbington had provided the material on Diana Ruth Wilson. Secondly, there was a stretching and thought-provoking botanical quiz devised by Martin Collins.
Diana Ruth Wilson. Joyce began the session with an interesting and concise résumé of Diana Ruth Wilson’s life and referred back to the IAPI visit to Sherborne Museum in July 2011(notes on this visit, by Mary Brewin, can be found in the August 2011 newsletter). We were shown round by Elisabeth Bletsoe, the Curator, who had given a talk at an IAPI meeting in November 2010 (see meeting report by Ruth Ineson in December 2010 newsletter). Anne and John Bebbington had used the original visit as an opportunity to photograph many of the original paintings. Anne used these in an interesting and enlightening way, this January, to illustrate how Diana Ruth Wilson’s painting had developed over a seven-year period from 1905 to 1912. Diana Ruth Wilson was born in 1886 and died in 1969. She was the second of three children. Her father was a housemaster at Sherborne School and had a keen interest in the natural world. He often took the boys on nature walks and these were joined by Diana who developed a love of the countryside and keen powers of observation. These observational skills were further developed while she attended Sherborne Ladies' College. Under the tutelage of the deputy headteacher, Miss Moore, Diana started to paint the wild flowers of Dorset. These are accurately portrayed and detailed enough for species identification. She used watercolours and painted direct onto the paper without the aid of any preliminary line drawings. She developed an astonishing understanding of the features and habit of her plant subjects and her exceptional observational recall allowed her to arrange her subjects in an artistic but truly realistic fashion. After her father retired, the family moved to Uploders House, a few miles from Bridport. Whilst here she travelled to Dresden to learn the art of painting on porcelain and took commissioned work for door handles and finger plates. She also travelled to visit her cousin in Brazil and produced a series of accurate South American butterfly pictures. In 1914 she married a botanist and educator called Philip Fyson and lived in India until 1932. During this time she had four children and amongst other things, she produced 320 plates for the first illustrated flora of the region written by her husband, “The Flora of the Southern Hill Stations”. She also painted many Indian scenes which earned her the name of the Lady of the Palms and Paddy Fields.
In 1932 the family returned to England and suffered tragedy culminating in the death of Philip from a road accident in 1947. Diana and her daughter Ruth went north to be near her youngest son and became interested in rare plants of bogs and moorlands. She renewed her contacts in Sherborne. After her death in 1969, Ruth offered Diana’s early paintings, 90 from Sherborne and another 42 from Uploders, to the Sherborne Museum. Many of the plants illustrated became extinct or rare and her pictures provide an excellent historical record. Sadly Ruth died in a car accident in 1971, within two years of her mother. Diana Ruth Wilson’s artistic development through her pictures, 1905–1912. Her earliest pictures are fresh and well observed but with no real attempt at composition, e.g. Viola canina 1905. However within the year she had shown marked improvement due to painting each day and constant practice, e.g. wild tulip 1905. August 1905 saw her including wrinkled, diseased and dead parts of a plant which made her paintings look more alive, e.g. sea beet and Hypericum androsaemum. She also started to include detailed bits of a plant to help with identification, e.g. Geranium pratense 1907, and more composition by 1909–1910 in the wayfaring tree. By the time she moved to Uploders, her pictures were more complex in form and detail and the composition accurately reflected more complex plant habits, e.g. vetches and the meadow vetchling.
The Wedderburn Sisters. In November a colleague shared photos he had taken and albums of pictures with Anne Bebbington. These photos belonged to two Wedderburn sisters who became authorities on birds in India. Jemima Wedderburn Blackburn illustrated “Blackburn’s Birds”. The albums of watercolours 1867–1877 belonged to their three cousins, Susan, Margaret and Alicia Henrietta who were little known artistically. Alicia (Lady Stanhope) married and produced numerous sketches of flora and fauna. Her two sisters remained spinsters and had the time and money to pursue their interests. Susan specialized in painting plants and Anne described her watercolours as “tender and loving”. Other paintings were landscapes. The albums were interesting but the pictures were not in the same class as Diana Ruth Wilson’s, as they lacked finesse and were not underpinned by accurate observation. You could not have identified the plants with great certainty to species level. An interesting comparison.
The Quiz. Martin’s quiz was inspired by a booklet on methods used by climbing plants, by economic uses of plants, by plant families and by the many common names of plants which arose in different regions of the country. He also used “The Englishman’s Flora” by G. Grigson. He managed to meld all of these aspects into a fun, stretching and very interesting quiz which could be tackled individually or in groups.
Martin had laid out a wide range of plant specimens, fruits and seeds, various commodities, e.g. a vanilla pod, jar of coffee, etc.; and cards with obscure common plant names, or family names, or binomial botanical names. Our daunting task was to move the cards in order to correctly name the plant specimens, identify its family and bring it together with any other example of the same family. Also to link the correct regional name and botanical name to each specimen! A formidable task that generated a lot of earnest discussion amongst us all. It was a wonderful and interesting exercise which had us all gripped until he elucidated the answers with explanations and anecdotes. These too generated further discussion. Some examples were: black bryony which is in the yam family Dioscoreaceae; white bryony which has tendrils and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae as did the cheyote; Virginia creeper and grapes were united in the grape family Vitaceae; the Rubiaceae contained both cleavers and coffee; and the Lauraceae included bay laurel and the avocado pear. A thought-provoking and fitting end to an excellent day.
November 2014 Meeting Report
Saturday 15th November 2014 Tenth Anniversary Meeting
Our guest speaker for the tenth anniversary meeting of IAPI, Professor David Ingram, delivered a memorable presentation about Ruskin’s flora. This encompassed Ruskin’s sometimes chequered life story (particularly in affairs of the heart), his wonderful, free but accurate drawings of the flora which he found so engaging, and his sensitive and evocative landscape paintings. In these he displayed his talent for, and interest in, geological matters. Intriguingly his ‘alternative’ botanical classification scheme succeeded mostly in confusing nomenclature as he was completely out of step with the botanical thinking and research of the time which was based upon the Linnaean system—which he sought to reject. Having introduced the IAPI audience to the plants depicted in the flora, Professor Ingram went on to lead us on an illustrated tour of Ruskin’s gardens. As a child Ruskin had enjoyed the garden of his childhood home at Herne Hill, and the opportunity to create his own garden in the idyllic Lake District setting of Brantwood, overlooking Coniston Water, was not to be missed. The area had been coppiced extensively, but Ruskin discontinued this practice, and instead he attempted to weave his socially proactive ideas with intellectual inquiry into his garden. The concept of wilderness was a high priority for him and he rejected formal planting in favour of more natural schemes, in harmony with the local environment. Sadly, as he aged Ruskin became excessively concerned with the ongoing development of the garden and with this intense focus came mental ill health. In his later years he was cared for at his home by his cousin Joan Severn, a warm and comforting individual who remained with him until his death. She went on to inherit Brentwood and swiftly made her own mark on the garden. Joan Severn adopted an entirely different approach to the garden, introducing more formal planting and brighter, vivid colour schemes especially along the lakeside walks. Page 2 Published bi-monthly, (February, April, June, August, October and December) Distributed by email to members Copies can be printed on request for postal distribution (contact a Committee Member) Whilst Ruskin himself may have objected to the introduction of brightly coloured azaleas, their placement in combination with Ruskin’s original naturalistic planting may, paradoxically, have made the gardens more accessible and understood by the very people Ruskin wished to encourage—the general public. Many of these visitors, after Ruskin’s death, would have arrived by steam launch (also something of which he would probably not have approved), direct to the garden where they could set out to explore the grounds of Brantwood. The whole garden has more recently been sensitively and painstakingly restored by the head gardener Sally Beamish, who knew Joan Severn and who worked to ensure that the garden was restored to its former glory and will continue to be enjoyed by the many visitors for the foreseeable future. At the end of this most interesting presentation, Professor Ingram concluded by showing an image which he believed summed up Ruskin’s life, interests and work: a beautiful watercolour painting of trees in the landscape, a river with beautifully depicted underlying geology; fairly loose in style, but accurate and indicative of everything that Ruskin respected— the natural world. A full account of Professor Ingram’s presentation will appear in the next volume of Eryngium.