Kew Guild

1986, Sarah Rutherford (Fraser), Study Tour Sri Lanka, Palms

Study trip to Sri Lanka – July 1986

By Sarah Rutherford

The main aims of this trip were to study members of the family Palmae, and to help with the verification of the Palm collection at the major Botanic Garden in Sri Lanka: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya. Also to enhance already strong links between R.B.G. Kew and R.B.G. Peradeniya.

My original brief was to spend three weeks working at the Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, collecting herbarium specimens from their Palm Collection to be verified at R.B.G. Kew. After this I had intended to spend one week’s leave visiting other places on the island. However, it turned out that I spent four weeks on attachment to the Botanic Gardens, making several official trips to different parts of the country organised by the Gardens Superintendent, Mr. Sumithraarachchi. These were interspersed between my main work of collecting Palms from the Gardens.

The R.B.G. Peradeniya were established in 1822, and thus have a well established organisation and a long history. They are 147 acres in extent, and have approximately 200 staff to organise and maintain them. The National Herbarium, a colonial style building with over 50,000 herbarium sheets, lies within the Gardens; also a Seed Bank and Micropropagation Unit. The altitude is at about 1 ,550 feet, and the situation is about 10 degrees above the equator. Thus the climate is tropical, but not too hot, with a monsoon season in July and August.

I spent the majority of my time at the gardens in the Palmetum, where most of the Palms are situated; it is a pleasant, shady area which reveals the diversity of Palm form admirably. Mr Sumithraarachchi allowed me three of his staff to help with specimen collection: one of the Curators, with a good botanical knowledge, and two tree climbers who helped with retrieval and preparation of the specimens. Unfortunately, my time at the Gardens coincided with Monsoon Season in Kandy (the nearest town to Peradeniya), so on some days rain prevented any collections being made. However this was not too much of an obstacle. In the rest of the country the weather seemed to be hot and sunny. On one day we collected from 30 different species, which was rather a record! Our usual total was around 15 to 20 per day.

The Herbarium staff helped in preparing the specimens for packing and transportation, which saved much-needed time. Warning: I had to buy eight gallons of meths in order to douse all the specimens for preservation, which I had not budgeted for in my spending money and cost £30 Sterling (refunded by R.B.G. Kew). Moral: Ensure you have enough money for unforeseen items such as this!

I made four separate trips out of the Gardens, each time accompanied by members of the administration staff of the Gardens. It was helpful to be with local people, both to interpret and point out items of interest along the way which otherwise might have been ignored. These trips were much easier than me travelling on my own, as Gardens transport was provided for each one. Travelling on the island one covers relatively short distances, but they seem to take quite a time, especially by public transport. Colombo to Kandy is 70 miles but takes three hours to cover the distance.

My visits consisted of two one-day trips, one two-day, and one five-day.

As the majority of my stay was in one place, I was fortunate to base my accommodation with a Sri Lankan family recommended by Laura Ponsonby. Lloyd and Ranee Perera were kind and helpful and provided excellent accommodation at a reasonable price. I think that they would be willing to look after anyone from Kew visiting Kandy in future.

When out on visits I stayed at hotels and rest houses. These were all found for rne by Gardens staff, who usually managed to get a reduction in price for me even though I was a “tourist”. Everywhere I stayed was always clean and the service good. Meals often consisted of rice and curry in one form or another, which is jolly tasty, but hell if you don’t like curry (I do!).

I used public buses to travel from the Perera’s to the Gardens. These are frequent but rather noisy and rickety. Private buses were the same fare, but usually full to bursting point.

During my stay the trouble centred around Tamils in the north and east of the island rumbled on. I never encountered any trouble personally (apart from seeing the gaping hole blown in the Post Office in Colombo some months before), and it seemed that as long as one avoided travelling to Jaffna, Trincomalee and the surrounding areas, life would remain peaceful.

I felt my trip to be very successful. Most of the Palms of the Gardens were collected, and a set retained at their National Herbarium for future reference. I gathered information and photographs useful for my Taxonomy Project and saw a good variety of the island’s flora and climatic zones. The staff of the Gardens, especially Mr. Sumithraarachchi, were always helpful and keen to ensure that I got the most out of my visit. I saw the diversity of Sri Lanka’s country. It ranges from the cool, moist hill country (temperatures at 0 degrees C are not unknown), to the hot, dry lowlands, with various intermediates. These include 50 square miles of hot, wet primary rainforest with lots of juicy leeches! I also saw some of the most important historic and religious sites on the island, which greatly aided my insight into Sri Lanka as a whole.

Visits made in Sri Lanka – S. Rutherford, July 1986

One Day Visits

Anuradhapura – Ancient city in ruins, centred around Sacred Bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) which is 2,500 years old. Original capital of Sri Lanka.

Gampaha Botanical Garden, Colombo – Small, rural garden, where the first Hevea braziliensis in Asia still survive.

Two Day Visits

Polonaruwa – Ruined palace and Buddhist Temples. Used as Capital after Anuradhapura abandoned.

Sigirya – ruined Palace built on a 600 ft. sheer rock in 11th century AD. Also water gardens from same date being excavated.

Five Day Visits

Horton Plains – Cool grassland and trees; misty, eerie place. Many plants allied to temperate, northern genera. Rhododendron zeylanicum abundant.

Hakgala Botanical Garden – One of highest altitude botanical gardens in the world. First Camellia sinensis in the country tried here and still survive today. Temperate, moist climate.

Diyaluma Falls – Waterfall tumbling down 600 ft. sheer granite.

Ratnapura – Gem capital of Sri Lanka. Most gems found around this town.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve – Reputedly the last remaining Primary Rainforest in Asia. An exciting piece of untouched vegetation, full of leeches, leopards and Rattans (Calamusspp.).

Galle – Galle Fort is an historical town on the southernmost coast which has signs of all its European colonisers still in evidence. The beaches and warm sea are idyllic!


1986, Robert Mitchell, Study Tour Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands collecting

Sydney, Australia.

Dear Mr. Storey,
I am writing to let you know that the visit to the Solomon Islands that the Kew Guild helped to make possible is now completed. We have just arrived in Sydney, Australia and are in the process of getting the film used on the visit developed and awaiting news from Kew on the names of orchids collected.

The visit had some initial teething problems with the arrangement of collecting permits and permission to visit Choiseal. These were fortunately overcome with the generous help of many friends made in the Solomons. However, over 80 orchid specimens have been collected and despatched to Kew in the form of dried specimens, spirit material and living plants. These will hopefully contribute towards further understanding the distribution of orchids in this fascinating area.

I would like to take this more informal opportunity to thank you and the Guild very much for your generous support of the project. It has proved to be a fantastic experience from the point of view of plant and environmental knowledge. Also being in a different part of the world with a different cultural base was both testing and rewarding. I will prepare my final report once the film and plant names have been sorted out and will forward it to you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Robert B. Mitchell


1986, Michael Maunder, The Somali Research Project, The Riverine Forests Of The Juba, Southern Somalia

The Somali Research Project: a multi-disciplinary expedition to the riverine forests of the Juba, southern Somalia

by Michael Maunder

At midday on Friday 4th July 1986 I staggered out of the final exam for the Kew Diploma, by the following Monday morning I was flying out to Somalia via Nairobi. I was to join a team of Biologists who were to carry out an ecological survey of the remaining patches of riverine forest on the Juba River, southern Somalia. Travelling with Nigel Varty (zoologist, Kings College London) we were to be met in Mogadishu by Jane Madgwick (Expedition leader; Suffolk Trust for Nature Conservation) and Mr. Brian Wood (zoologist, University College London).

The expedition represented a final chance to investigate the Juba’s forest, an area never before recorded in any detail. The expansion of agriculture along Somalia’s only other perennial river, the Schabeelle, has left the only sizeable areas of forest on the Juba River. In the relatively remote south peasant agriculture and extensive recent plantations are clearing the forest at an alarming rate. This destruction will only be accelerated in the future. The river is being dammed to provide hydro-electric power, so removing Mogadishu’s dependence on dwindling supplies of Acacia bussei charcoal. The building of the dam will profoundly change the existing village systems and with the forest the extensive and intimate local knowledge of forest products will also disappear.

After a week in Mogadishu we left for the field with our two Somali counterparts, Igal from the National Range Agency (N.R.A.), and Dahir from the N.R.A. Herbarium. For a while the last of the rains held us up in the town of Buaale, then once the roads dried out we travelled north to our first site.

Navigating by compass and using aerial photographs we located the first area near the village of Dhokal. On reaching the forest the observer is struck by the lush growth, shade and humidity, especially notable after passage through the dry, grey thorn bush. The riverine or gallery forest forms a thin strip along the river banks, the trees form a canopy reaching up to around 25 metres with emergents up to 30 metres. The forest is often dense with liana thicket (Landolphla, Hunteria, Acridocarpus, Cissus etc.) and difficult to move through. On the sandy soil of the river bank huge Ficus sycomorus trees grow, their abundant fruit proving popular with the troops of blue monkey Cerropithecus mitis. Underneath these huge trees would grow a dense understorey of Lecaniodiscus and Sorindeia. Other trees present in the forest included Mimusops fruticosa, Garrinia sp., Trichilia, Acacia sp. and a species of ebony Diospyros. Adjacent to the tall forest there would be areas of dense woodland often dominated by Newtonia erlangeri and the palm Hyphaene coriacea, with smaller trees of Balanites, Sterculia etc. The forest in places grew near large regularly flooding lakes of ‘desheles’, there Lawsonia inermis grew with Garcinia before grading into a marginal scrub of Sesbania, Paronia, Mimosa pigra and with Neptunia at the water’s edge.

Work would start at first light extracting bats (often large and irate fruit bats) from mist nets or doing the small mammal trap line with Nigel Varty. With Jane Madgwick I was responsible for surveying forest structure and recording species composition, in association with this job I was to collect ethno-botanical information on timber and medicinal plants. I was very fortunate to work with amah Hussein, a local carpenter and healer of great local fame. He provided much information that would otherwise have been unobtainable.

The forest proved to be a comfortable environment in which to work but not without its problems. Tsetse fly were a constant irritation but of minor import compared with the prevalence of hippo in some areas. On the approach of a hippo, refuge would be taken in the nearest tree, incidentally throwing a plant press at an approaching hippo is not to be recommended. On another occasion a hasty exit was performed through what was generally recognised as impenetrable thicket after I walked into a group of buffalo.

By mid-September the field work was over and we returned to Mogadishu. For a week we held a series of seminars and lectures lobbying Government departments for the creation of a national park within the Juba. A day of field techniques and practical lectures was given at the Balcad Nature Reserve near Mogadishu, where, with Eric Trump (ex Nairobi Herbarium), a nature trail was prepared for the reserve. As a result of the expedition’s work the future of the remaining forests looks more hopeful with official Somali response looking promising. The National Academy of Sciences (Washington D.C.) is planning an agro-forestry project in the area using remaining forest as a seed source. Even if the felling stops the changes in forest composition from altered flooding regimes and spraying for tsetse fly control may well be profound.

I would like to thank those individuals and organisations who made my participation in the expedition possible and the many who helped the expedition as a whole in this country and in Somalia. In Britain the authorities of LC.D. Kew and the Herbarium, Kew, and in particular the Kew Guild for their valuable financial assistance. Within Somalia Dr. Karani of the N.R.A., Mr. John Leefs and Dr. Rod Brown of the U.K. Forestry Project.


1986, Lester Searle, Study Tour Urban Landscapes, Ruhr Valley, Germany

“Rombergpark” – A Student Travel Scholarship

By Lester Searle

During 1986 I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of the Student Travel Scholarships for which second year students compete. The scholarship allows for a small grant from the Gardens but, more importantly, for three weeks paid special leave. With the help of additional funding from the Kew Guild Award Scheme and the Bentham Moxon Trust I was able to make a working visit to the Botanic Gardens, ‘Rombergpark’, in Dortmund, Germany.

Dortmund is a heavily industrialised city of some 600,000 inhabitants, the major industries being steel making and brewing. I am sure many readers have heard of, and some tasted, ‘Dortmunder Pils’. There are in fact some six large breweries in Dortmund and particular care is taken not to pollute the water table with wastes from the steel industry. During 1959 and 1969 Dortmund was host to the Bundesgartenschau and the resultant ‘Westfalenpark’ was a strong attraction for me as was the University Botanic Garden at nearby Bochum. I have a particular interest in urban landscapes and was confident that here, in the heart of the Ruhr Valley, I would find many examples worth studying.

The success of any working visit is dependant, to some extent, on the reception and assistance given by the establishment and staff of your destination. In Rombergpark I was not to be disappointed. On my first morning the Director of the Gardens, Dr. Bunemann, collected me from my lodgings and on arrival at Rombergpark we set off on a guided tour of the gardens. This was to be the first of many informative walkabouts with Dr. Bunemann, members of the Gardens staff and other employees of Stadt Dortmund all of whom went to great lengths, officially and privately, to make sure I gained as much as possible from my visit.

Rombergpark itself comprises some 60 ha and is only four miles from the city centre. It was formerly the grounds of the SchloB (castle) Romberg and includes a large lake as well as many mature tree specimens. It was here, when he was Director, that Dr. G. Krussmann did much of his writing and today there are still staff there who worked with him. In 1927 the grounds of SchloB Romberg were given to the city of Dortmund for use as a botanic garden. The original Romberg residence was destroyed by wartime bombing and today a modern hotel sits tastefully by the northern shores of the lake. A small stream flows into the lake after meandering through a meadow which bisects the gardens. Dr. Bunemann and his staff now manage this meadow so as to encourage wildlife. The gardens include an informal and very effective Rhododendron Woodland as well as a superb Beech Wood. A medium sized tropical glasshouse contains luxuriant displays but is all the more remarkable for the successful combination of restaurant and display complex. On one side the restaurant looks out on a paved sun trap whilst on the other the view is directly into the glasshouse. For all of this Rombergpark employs a total staff of approximately 25.

The following three weeks were to give me the opportunity to work in various parts of Rombergpark but my first day in Dortmund was for guided tours and Westfalenpark, site of the 1959 and 1969 Bundesgartenschau, was next on the list. The park is approximately 70 ha and includes 4 ha of water features. Contained within the park is the German National Rosarium for which Dr. Bunemann also has responsibility. The park is very much an amenity to the people of Dortmund and Westphalia. The chairlift and miniature railway still operate 17 years after the last garden show (though Westfalenpark will again be the site for a Bundesgartenschau in 1991 and planning is already underway), and there is a music bowl as well as a sound shell both much used by local and visiting performers. Some innovative childrens’ play areas include giant beer barrels sawn in half and used as a sort of coracle. Horticultural standards in the park are very high and its location, adjacent to one of the steel works biggest complexes, makes for wonderful contrast.

During my time in Dortmund I also had the opportunity to visit the University Botanic Garden at Bochum. Included in the collections is a superb ‘Trochenwald’ (Dry Wood) of southern hemisphere subjects set in a realistic dry river bed. The display is all the more fantastic as very cold winters mean that all of the plants are containerised and are skilfully plunged in their stony surroundings each spring.

A kind offer by Herr H. Reith (one of Dr. Bunemann’s Garten Meisters for Rombergpark) enabled me to visit the small but superb Arboretum ‘Poort-Bulten’, near Lasser in the Netherlands. It was also with Herr Reith that I was given a conducted tour of the site for landesgartenschau 1988 at Rheda- Wiedenbruck. An exciting project, being prepared well in advance. The village of Wiedenbruck is full of well preserved 16th and 18th century buildings and is well worth a visit on plain tourist grounds.

Through the kind offices of many of Dr. Bunemanns’s colleagues I was able to visit a wide variety of urban landscape sites in and around Dortmund making best use of my camera and coming away with much food for thought.

To round off a thoroughly enjoyable. but exhausting, three weeks I spent three hours examining the landscaping of the new museum complex at Cologne. The landscaping can only be described as superb whilst I am sure the building Itself will provoke abhorrence or admiration and nothing in between.


1985, Sophieke Piebenga, Study And Work Visit To Indonesia And West Java

Study and work visit to Java, Kew Guild Award, 1984

By Sophieke Piebenga

Java is one of the largest of theca. 14,000 islands which make up the Indonesian Archipelago in S.E. Asia. It lies just south of the equator, roughly 1 ,000 km (600 miles) S.E. of Singapore. Java is about the same size as England but almost double its population. A chain of volcanic mountains run west-east across the island, dominating the landscape in many places. The average annual rainfall ranges from ca. 4,000 mm in the west to ca. 2,500 mm in the east of the island.

One day in July last year I found myself pedalling away through the sugar plantations of Central Java. Every now and then I would pass the colourful entrances to small villages which layoff the narrow and dusty road, quiet and shaded, hidden by huge bamboos and trees.

Suddenly I came across a field which was the scene of much activity, children were playing about, chewing on short sticks of sugar cane, whilst their elder relatives were busy cutting the cane and loading it onto small trolleys which, when full, would be transported on special rails to the nearby sugar factory.

Upon the sight of a foreigner the children stopped their play and ran towards me, shouting: “Hello mister, hello mister, dari mana (where do you come from)?”

I got off my bike and a simple conversation developed. After explaining that in England we didn’t have sugar cane, but yes, lots of potatoes, one bright little lad didn’t hesitate and offered me his stick of sugar, whereupon all his friends did the same. And so, after having handed out various postcards (of the Palm House of Kew, covered in snow) I cycled off, chewing my bit of cane – another experience, and several delightful pictures richer.

The above is only one of the many enjoyable and enriching moments I encountered during my stay on Java from May until September 1985. Whilst still in my second year at Kew I had already developed the idea of going to the Botanic Garden in Indonesia on a ‘student-exchange’ basis, to gain a better understanding and wider experience of tropical plants, their diversity, their environment, their uses and their conservation.

Various technical problems prevented me from going there straight after I had finished the Kew Diploma Course in September 1984 – but finally in May the following year I set off, under the banner of Kew and supported by a Kew Guild Award, to the Bogar Botanic Garden on West Java.

The Botanic Garden(87 ha) was started in 1817 by the Dutch, and as such it became responsible for the introduction and distribution in Indonesia of many economic crops like oil palm (1848), cinchona (1852) and rubber (1876). At the beginning of this century the garden was a well-known, flourishing institute where much botanical research was carried out. Unfortunately World War II, the (successful) struggle for independence (1945) and the period of economic and political instability that followed, meant that the garden got into a state of neglect.

Forty years on though, the situation is different. Since 1968 the Bogar Botanic Garden and its three satellite gardens (Cibodas, Purwodadi and Eka Karya) are part of the National Biological institute which comes under the Government controlled Institute of Science. Active research is carried out once more, mainly in ethnobotany and the conservation of genetic plant material.

Expeditions are undertaken to the far corners of the archipelago to rescue plants which are threatened by the pressures of development and exploitation of natural resources, and by the ever increasing population.

The Botanic Gardens in Indonesia are thus becoming important in the ex-situ conservation of genetic plant material, and their collections are growing rapidly.

The collection of palms at Bogar is one of the largest and best-known in the world. One of the most famous specimens is the huge oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) which is the original plant that came from Africa via Kew to Indonesia in 1848. It subsequently became the mother of all oil palms in S. E. Asia. Today it measures well over25 metres and towers above all the surrounding vegetation.

The collection of native orchids is impressive too. Many of the 920 species are epiphytic like the chocolate scented Dendrobium leonis. I was as much attracted to the terrestrial ones though, such as Calanthe triplicata with its length wise folded leaf, and the beautiful Paphiopedilum spp. like P. javanicum and P. glaucophyllum, with their fat, purple and green lady-slipper flowers.

The giant orchid Gramatophyllum speciosum, with stems up to 2.5 metres long dangling from trees and branches, is quite a sight too.

Of the other 5,000 species in the garden some of the plants which particularly caught my interest were the massive Dipterocarpus and Shorea spp. (single straight stemmed trees up t040 metres); the many Ficaceae of which the ‘waringin’ (F. benghalensis) is a well-known village tree; the beautiful specimens of Victoria regia; and a tree called Gnetum gnemon. The last one is botanically very interesting as it is regarded as the most highly specialised of the gymnosperms (compare Welwitschia and Ephedra), although its flat, green oval leaves are easily mistaken for a broad leaved tree like any other. The flattened and fried seeds are quite a delicacy in Indonesia.

A remarkable though common sight are young, often brightly coloured leaves hanging limp at the end of a branch. Their light colour contrasts strongly with the darker green of the mature leaves, and they thus give the appearance of handkerchiefs. Especially leguminous trees such as Amherstia nobilis, Cynometra ramiflora subsp. bijuga and Maniltoa spp. have these conspicuous leaf tassels.

One thing I thought I ought to suggest to Mr. Simmons is the ‘weekly work-out: every Friday at 7 a.m. all garden staff gather on one of the main lawns, and, accompanied by loud Government-composed music, a series of routine exercises start. The curator up in front, everybody jumps, stretches, bends and twists. This communal aerobic activity goes on for half an hour and is followed by glasses of warm orange squash. That’s what I call truly caring for the well-being and welfare of the staff!

I made various visits to the satellite botanic garden in Cibodas (80 ha). Only20 km from Bogor (260 m), this garden at 1 ,400 metres enjoys a much cooler climate with a temperature range from 15.0_C (min.) to 20.7C (max.). It can therefore support a collection of plants from tropical mountain areas (such as the native Rhododendron javanicum and Clerodendron spp.) and from subtropical regions (like Eucalyptus spp. from Australia).

Bordering on to the garden is a National Park of more than 1 ,200 ha. extending up to the summit of Mt. Pangrango (3,000 m) and the crater of Mt. Gede (2,950 m). Both volcanoes are covered by (sub) montane cloud forest, with trees like the coniferous Podocarpus imbricatus, and Schima wallichii (Theaceae) which in places ‘littered’ the forest floor with its white flowers.

The undergrowth is rich in Begonia spp. and among others the striking Arisaema filiforme (Araceae – recently described in the Kew Bulletin). Near a waterfall at ca. 1,675 metres on a rocky vertical wall overgrown with Sphagnum moss I saw Nepenthes gymnamphora growing healthily and abundantly.

Above 2,500 metres the vegetation becomes more sub-alpine with Vaccinium varingiaefolium as the dominant species. Parasitising on its roots, at ca. 2,800 metres, was the rare Balanophora elongata.

Near the top of Mt. Gede I saw the ‘Javanese Edelweiss’, Anaphalis javanicum, in abundance. Having been to the top (2,950 metres) three times, on two occasions in thick cloud, I can confidently say that it can be very cold, wet and miserable in the tropics!

High volcano tops like the above are unfortunately the only pockets of original vegetation left on the island of Java, which is almost completely cultivated by man.

Another National Park which comprises a range of relatively ‘untouched’ volcanoes (Bromo, Tengger, Semeru) is in East Java. These volcanoes are all still active to some extent and their poisonous fumes strongly influence the (absence in certain places, of) plant growth. The top of Mt. Semeru, at3,675 metres the highest volcano on Java, is completely bare.

Lower down there are still areas of Casuarina junghuhniana, a tree with scale-like leaves like Equisetum. This tree used to be the dominant species in the dry, semi-deciduous forest which once covered Java.

Not far from this National Park in East Java is another satellite botanic garden in Purwodadi (85 ha.). It has a much lower rainfall than the other two gardens (2,500 mm as opposed to 4,000 mm), and most of this falls between November and March.

The period from April to October is normally very dry and Purwodadi Botanic Garden has therefore been designated, relatively recently, as a garden for plants from semi-arid tropical regions. The collections are still in their first stages of development but they are taking shape gradually. The third satellite botanic garden, Eka Karya, is on Bali (an island east of Java), but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to visit that.

Space won’t allow me to continue telling about all the other things I saw, experienced and visited – the tea plantations, the cassava fields, the sugar factories; the exotic fruit crops and spices; the flourishing orchid trade in Jakarta and Bandung; the magnificent newly laid-out landscape around the famous Borobudur temple in Central Java; and the many, many attractive and interesting tropical plants I came across.

There is no doubt that my stay on Java has given me a tremendous insight into the tropical plant world, and additionally into the functioning of another major botanic garden – it was a most enjoyable, but above all invaluable experience!


1985, Louise Bustard, Study Tour Of Cacti And Succulent Collections In Europe

Suchard, succulents and strudel, Kew Guild Award 1985

By Louise Bustard

As any cactophile will admit, once these plants penetrate your interest, you’re hooked and usually for life. I first became fascinated by Cacti and Succulents as a student at Kew and eventually spent one year out of the three working with the reserve collection. Then in September 1984 I began my new job as the person responsible for the maintenance of the reserve collection. Having spent the winter months settling in and familiarising myself with the plants and their needs, I began to realise that I had no knowledge of any other Botanic collection of Cacti and Succulents with which to compare and judge the results of my work with the collection at Kew.

To rectify this, I set off in June 1985 partly sponsored by the Kew Guild, to visit some of the best Cacti and Succulent collections in Europe. The four collections I went specifically to see were: The Palmengarten, Frankfurt, West Germany; The State Succulent Collection (Stadtische Sukkulenten-Sammlung), Zurich, Switzerland; Munich Botanic Garden, West Germany and the Bundesgarten at Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria. In an unofficial capacity I also visited Zurich Botanic Garden and the Botanic Gardens of Vienna University within the grounds of Belvedere Palace.

As gardens it would be unfair to compare them as they are all very different in their layout, functions and aims. The Palmengarten is an extremely successful combination of pleasure park and Botanic Garden, quite the best of its kind I have ever seen.

The State Succulent Collection in Zurich is for the specialist. It consists only of Cacti and Succulents and constitutes probably the best reference collection within Europe. However, it also caters more than adequately for the casual visitor. On the day of my visit a Selenicereus grandiflorus or more commonly known as “Queen of the Night”, had 19 buds ready to open that night. The gardens publicised this fact in the local newspaper and to accommodate the massive interest shown by literally hundreds of phone calls, the garden remained open until midnight to allow people to view the magnificent spectacle of this night-flowering Cactus. The devotee will discover the sin of covetousness whilst among this collection.

The Munich Botanic Garden is laid out and maintained with Germanic precision and fulfils its botanic ro1e superbly whilst also endeavouring to satisfy the horticulturist.

The gardens of Schloss Schonbrunn are as beautiful and grand as one would expect from such an historic and artistic city as Vienna. Once the home of the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which stretched as far a field as Mexico, this garden and its fantastic collection of hothouses are responsible for the introduction to cultivation of many plants into Europe. But if Schloss Schonbrunn is famous for just one plant it is the specimen of Fokea crispa it has cultivated for the past 200 years making it the oldest cultivated in Europe. The palace hothouses are used largely for the cultivation of houseplants but they also have a quite spectacular Cacti collection.

As a result of this two week tour I put on weight because of sampling the Strudel; felt thirsty after being plied with pretzels; discovered that German syrup waffles are different from the Dutch and realised that one should never go to Europe without a packet of Rennies.

Also as a result of the tour experiments are being undertaken at Kew to produce a compost mix with a much lower soil and peat content and a much higher solid mineral content.

Cacti and succulents are plants which people either love or hate, they are rarely viewed with indifference. By the very bizarre nature of the plants they attract interest, fascination and sometimes even revulsion, but either way they get a reaction. More than any other plants they create in the publics’ imagination a definitive environment- the desert. They are immensely popular as houseplants for, on the whole, they are easily grown. Yet, because of this popularity with both amateurs and professionals alike they are probably more endangered than almost any other group of plants. Thus, it is extremely important that a botanic collection of these plants be of the very highest quality for us to gain as much knowledge as possible about these plants before the day comes when botanic garden specimens are the only remnants of an environment and its inhabitants.

Editor’s Note: A more comprehensive report was also kindly provided but for reasons of space was not used.


1984, Malcolm Leppard, Study Tour South African Botanic Gardens

Study tour of botanic gardens, South Africa, 1984

By Malcolm Leppard, Kew Guild Award Scheme Recipient

During September and October’84 I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks on a study tour of some of South Africa’s botanic gardens travelling some 10,000 km doing so.

The purpose of my visit was to delve into most aspects of design, development, maintenance and management, but with a stronger emphasis on computerisation, visitor narrative and interpretation, staff training etc.

Due to time constraints I spent little time looking at plants as such, in any case the wealth of which would have necessitated decades not weeks.

The first stage of my journey took me from Harare, Zimbabwe, through various types of woodland, savanna woodland and tree savanna, to Mafeking via Botswana. My first impressions of South Africa were reminiscent of Australia with vast rolling plains, isolated farmsteads and plenty of large eucalyptus trees. I had expected kangaroos to bound across the landscape at any second. Towards Johannesburg the huge mining spoil heaps and abundant rubbish were all too evident. Fortunately, we were soon south at Kimberley where the diesel-electric engine was exchanged for a glorious old steam engine that puffed its way slowly across the never ending Karoo made up of short xerophytic scrub, interspersed with the occasionally flat topped hill. Those looking forward to a romantic steam locomotive ride like the ‘good old days’ were rudely awakened and brought back to reality by a carriage full of smoke and soot or incarcerated in a baking hot compartment with shuttered windows to keep out the filth.

Eventually we reached the mountains just north of the Cape. Once over this range the flora sparkled into life with verdant grass, pools of crystal water everywhere, masses of white Zantedeschia flowers, dwarf yellow and blue lupins, sprinkled with pink flamingos and dancing cranes. All along the track were orchards and vineyards that supply the luscious grapes to South Africa’s well known wine industry.

After three days and four nights I had arrived in Cape Town.

Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden nestling on the side of the famous

Table Mountain, is the ‘mother’ garden of the six regional botanic gardens dotted throughout South Africa, and is the oldest and the most popular. It, like its satellites, is run by a group of Trustees independent from the government although receiving 90% or more funding from it. Thus, luckily, they have a certain amount of autonomy come flexibility and their annual plant sale alone raises 50,000 Rand in one day for the garden.

Kirstenbosch is concerned exclusively with the flora of the summer high rainfall areas composed of no less than 20,000 species, exceedingly rich for such a small area.

South Africa is renowned for its proteas and ericas, but few were in flower during my short visit. Drawing the crowds, however, were large areas of brilliant annuals such as Dimorphotheca, Felicia etc., and beds of ‘Crane’ or ‘Paradise’ Strelitziareginae and S. juncea.

A particular feature that impressed me was the trail for the blind. It consisted of a guide rope meandering through vegetation, which was spliced to indicate every point of interest and where an informative braille notice could be found. The footpath surface varied periodically from gravel, sand, woodchips and leaf litter.

On completion of my study of Kirstenbosch I briefly looked at the Company’s Garden in the city centre. This, the first botanic garden in South Africa, began in 1652 as a supply garden for the replenishment of ships stores. It contains some very large original trees, but has been reduced to the status of a park. Before leaving Cape Town for Worcester and the Karoo Botanical Gardens, I managed a visit to the top of Table Mountain. Previously enshrouded, the clouds peeled back to provide glorious weather.

The Karoo Botanic Garden just north-east over the mountains, specialises in xerophytic plants of, you guessed it, the Karoo. Its 154 hectares containing over 500 species naturally occurring within its confines.

A riot of red, orange, and yellow flowers of Namaqualand daisies and vygies, greeted me. Most of the hectarage including the hills on the northern boundary, are treated as a reserve. Boasting a very large collection of Karroid plants it’s difficult to believe that such a number can be maintained by so few, however, I attribute this to the low rainfall of 130-200 mm: less water, fewer weeds.

It’s worth mentioning a hardscape element that 1 thought excellent, was the use of the gardens vertical, or near so, Malmesbury shale. This has been used upright in path construction making some of the best paths I’ve seen to date.

Lastly, was quite surprised to see Welwitchia flowering at the tender age of five years.

Leaving Worcester I travelled up the east coast along what is known as the ‘garden route’, to George then onto Port Elizabeth, through an amazing variety of forests, mountains, Karoo ostrich farms, sea scapes etc.: indeed a trip of startling contrasts. From Port Elizabeth I had expected the train to continue north along the coast to Durban, but oh no! We had to circumvent Transkei and Swaziland, a mere 1,500 km.

Durban Botanic Garden began in 1849 to supply produce such as vegetables and pave the way for introduction of possible economic crops. After going through a number of bad patches it was handed over to the Durban Municipality in 1913. Fairly small in size, 20 hectares, it nevertheless is quite a delightful garden with many original trees, but no longer of botanical significance. Though only run as an amenity it has attributes that could be usefully employed in other botanic gardens. I liked the lake with its architectural planting of Nelumbo nucifera and Cyperus papyrus etc., on the island weaver birds slung their pendulous nests in trees whilst white storks waded amongst an assortment of colourful waterfowl.

Two superb male specimens of Encephalartus woodii collected in 1895, still stand like sentinels over the garden.

I was pleased to meet two ex Kewites, Errol Scarr and Tony Hitchcock, both with Durban Municipality.

The next garden on my list was that of the lowveld, north-east near the border of Mozambique, at Nelspruit. The main reason for choosing this garden is that its climatic conditions are very similar to our own (Zimbabwe). Comprising of 154 ha most of it is treated as a reserve which is separated from the garden by a deep gorge of precipitous rocks containing the Crocodile River. This was impressive and has a good nature trail along its course. Opened in 1971 it concentrates on the flora of the lowveld principally South Africa’s.

Nelspruit has just purchased a computer for use as a data base, from proceeds of its plant sales to the public.

Another point worth mentioning here is the fact that by law all publications, common names on labels etc. must be in English and Afrikanse on a 50/50 basis.

Finally, I looked at Pretoria’s Botanic Garden, a 100% owned and government run: a distinct disadvantage compared to those run by the Trustees.

My main interest were the computer and garden layout which attempts to grow South Africa’s flora using Acocks system of 12 Biomes. The impossibility of trying to cultivate the flora from such diverse habitats is quite evident, however, the nursery complex is quite large and is carrying out some good work with endangered species etc.

Lastly, I should like to thank my sponsors, without whom the study tour could not have taken place. Main sponsorship was by the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust with a support grant from the Kew Guild and, at the very last moment, sufficient funds to mop up rampant inflation, by the John Wakeford Trust of Zimbabwe.


1984, Lloyd Snellgrove, Study Tour Bergen Botanic Garden & Norwegian Arboretum

Wanderings in western Norway

by D. L. Snellgrove, Kew Guild Award Scheme recipient

As a result of the Henry Idris Mathews Scholarship and a travel award from the Kew Guild I was fortunate enough this summer to be able to spend three weeks in Bergen in western Norway at Bergen Botanic Garden and the Norwegian Arboretum.

Bergen is Norway’s second largest city(after the capital Oslo) with a population of around 200,000. It lies in the south-western part of the country and compared with the rest of Norway enjoys a mild wet maritime climate. In fact soon after my arrival I was given an umbrella and quickly discovered that umbrellas are to Bergen what bicycles are to Amsterdam – essential items!

Called the “Fjord Capital” it is surrounded by countryside indented with fjords, dotted by islands and topped off with mountains. The city itself is built around seven hills and many of the older parts consist of narrow streets and wooden houses clinging to steep hillsides. Above this the hills rise to 650 metres, mostly wooded to 300 but always providing excellent recreational areas for walking, swimming and other outdoor pursuits.

The Botanic Garden, founded in 1897, is situated just south of the city centre next to the natural history museum in the University quarter. The University of Bergen is responsible for the scientific activities of both the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum. Although the garden is small and modest by our standards (0.9 hectares in size) it contains 5,000 species displayed and laid out in an attractive manner. From the small public glasshouse sited on a small hill at the south end of the garden good views are afforded over Bergen toward the wooded hills beyond.

The Norwegian Arboretum, established in 1971 as a Nordic cooperation venture, is 12 miles south-east of the city on the edge of Fanafjord. Its area of 30 hectares comprises a rugged topography with hills, rocky gorges and a small lake providing not just attractive naturalistic planting areas but also amenity and recreational potential. Walking is combined with educational nature trails and on the long shoreline there are many excellent bathing places including facilities for the disabled. Most of the arboretum consists of informal plantings, sometimes bordering on the “wild” whilst only a very small area is planted formally as one might expect in England. Various collections are grouped including Nothofagus, Rhododendron, Acer, Betula, Ilex and Asiatic and North American conifers. The Ilex are being assembled to form a decorative selection programme using plants from all over Norway.

In addition to visits to the Botanic Garden and Arboretum I took the opportunity to visit the surrounding area from which two trips in particular stand out.

The first is well known in western Norway and despite suffering from a mouthful of a name – “Norway in a nutshell” -It is a splendid scenic journey travelling about 100 miles west into the fjords and mountains. A quick itinerary is Bergen-Voss-Myrdal-Flam (all train), Flam Gudvangen (fjord steamer), Gudvangen-Voss (bus), Voss-Bergen (train).

The train leaves Bergen and is soon passing alongside fjords and small villages, hamlets and isolated farms. On the approach to Voss the train climbs and snow covered mountain tops appear. From Voss the train continues to Flam the changing point for the Flam line. Here there was some delay but bathing in the warm mountain sun only 100feetor so below glistening snow patches, who cared? The train arrived and moved off to make the most spectacular train journey I’ll probably ever make. Through the carriage window there appeared an ever changing panorama of unique scenery, snow capped mountains, thundering waterfalls and peaceful green valley meadows. A few facts and figures will emphasize this. Myrdal station lies at 865 metres and in45 minutes the train travels 12.4 miles down to Flam station on Aurlandfjord. Some of the gradients are heart stopping (the steepest is one metre in 18) and it comes as quite a relief to know that the carriages have five separate braking systems anyone of which can stop the train. From Flam a steamer is taken to Gudvangen at the head of the neighbouring Naer.0yfjord, one of the narrowest fjords in Norway. This journey was made in brilliant sunshine and only spoilt by the fact that the steamer was packed full of tourists and it’s literally standing room only. Nevertheless the majesty of sheer rock hundreds of metres high rising out of the water was on occasion enough to shut anyone up! From Gudvangen buses leave for Voss through the Naeroyvalley and then up the Stalheim curves where the road achieves gradients of one in five whilst twisting around numerous hairpin bends and where(if you’ve the courage to look) yet more awe inspiring scenery reveals itself. After all this It’s quite a relief to gently nod off to sleep on the train back to Bergen.

My second trip was to fulfil a long standing ambition to see a glacier. Here I was quite fortunate in that the Hardangerjokulen glacier is within reasonable travelling time from Bergen, being only a good hour’s walk from Finse railway station midway between Bergen and Oslo. This area lies within the newly founded national park Hardangervidda (vidda = mountain plateau), established in 1981 and encompassing an area over 3,000 sq. kms all above 1,000 metres. It is also reckoned to contain the largest wild deer population in Europe, estimated at 1 0,000 head in 1973.

Finse station at 1,222 metres is the highest railway station in Norway (it is inaccessible by road) and lies along a 60 mile section of track above the tree line on a bare and windswept plateau. Just before Finse the railway reaches 1 ,290 metres at Taugevatn, the highest point on the line where the land is largely covered by snow and any water by ice. By this time I was definitely having second thoughts. The train then stopped at Finse. Why was I the only person to get off? The rain then started to fall and it seemed especially cold and wet as a glance at the station thermometer told me it was 5C, wonderful! But then I got lucky, the rain blew away, the sun came out and in the distance the glacier dome gleamed, shone and beckoned.

So off I went, past remnants of dirty snow left from last winter’s heavy falls which still lay two metres thick in one place at the roadside. Vegetation was scarce and any plants in flower were all the more brilliant for their rarity. Yellow Compositae, some blue Geraniaceae and pink Caryophyllaceae was as far as my botanising went! But all formed handsome showpieces as I tramped towards the glacier jumping from rock to rock and crossing charging streams of fresh meltwater. With some trepidation I crossed several large crisp snowfields (my ice axe hadn’t featured in my original summer plans!) while watching a family happily ski-ing on the slopes in the summer sunshine. The edge of the glacier proved a bit of a disappointment as dirty grey fingers of ice ended in ten metre walls surrounded by a landscape of broken and barren rock in deep valleys gouged out by previous glacial advances.

Nevertheless the day spent here wandering around streams, snow and ice in perfect sunshine and almost total isolation was the most peaceful and restful day I’d spent in a long time.


1983, David Jewell, Expedition To Tasmania

Botanizing in Tasmania

By David Jewell – 1984 Thornton-Smith Scholarship holder

Tasmania, the smallest of the Australian States is a heart shaped island lying some hundred miles off the south eastern corner of the mainland. Rather less than26,000 square miles it is mountainous even though peaks only reach 5,000 feet.

On reaching the west coast the moisture laden westerly winds are forced upwards by the mountain chains, depositing much of their moisture, and in summer having a drying effect on the eastern part of the State. A marked rainfall gradient reaches up to 200 inches in the west falling to the mid twenties on the east coast. The whole of the western half of Tasmania is consistently wetter than the eastern half. Rainfall coupled with the higher average summer temperatures in the east results in marked differences in vegetation from east to west.

At the present time about 2,000 species of flowering plants are known to occur in Tasmania, either native to the state or as naturalised introductions. More than 200 native species occur naturally only within the State; that are endemic.

The vegetation has two components, the antarctic or southern oceanic flora, and the Australian type characterised by Acacia spp. and Eucalyptus spp. which Tasmania shares with the rest of South East Australia. Many plants regarded as belonging to the oceanic flora are endemic and are often confined to cold wet areas, their nearest relations occurring in similar situations in South America or New Zealand. It is believed that ancestors of these plants existed while Australia, New Zealand and South America were still joined in a southern land mass which included what is now Antarctica. The Australian flora was shared by the eastern part of mainland Australia and Tasmania during the several times these were joined, but divergence has occurred during times of separation and is still occurring.

The vegetation is constantly changing and programmes of burning off, land clearance, draining of swamps, and establishment of certain types of forest are important factors in that change. Several types of vegetation can be recognised; temperate rainforest or myrtle forest, Sclerophyll or Eucalypt forest usually divided into wet and dry Sclerophyll, mountain vegetation, coastal heath and sedgeland.

Vegetation map

Temperate Rainforests

In areas of high rainfall and suitable soils temperate rainforests are found from sea level to an altitude of 3,500 ft. The characteristic trees, NothofagusCunninghamii (myrtle) and Atherosperma moschatum (sassafras), cast a deep shade and undergrowth is often reduced to a surface cover of liverworts, mosses and lichens with scattered areas of ferns. While Nothofagus and Atherosperma are characteristic and wide-spread throughout Tasmania’s rainforests, other species are locally abundant. Athrotaxis Selaginoides (King Billy Pine) and Athrotaxis Cuppressoides (Pencil Pine) are trees of 50-100 feet in height. They may be associated with Northofagus or they may form pure stands on mountain slopes.

Where soils are acid and poor in mineral nutriments and the canopy of the rainforest becomes broken, other trees and also tall shrubs appear. Phyllocladus Aspleniifolius (celery top pine) is widespread and Eucryphia Lucida (leatherwood) locally abundant. The latter often grows to a height of 40 feet or more. In late summer their flowers may be up to 1½, inches in diameter and provide a spectacular display.

‘Laurels’, Waratahs and Heaths

The tall shrubs of these forests include a number of endemics, many characterised by showy flowers or by bright fleshy fruits. Anopteris glandulosus (native laurel, family escsllaniaceae) is a handsome shrub bearing large terminal racemes of white flowers. The proteaceae (Waratah family) and epaeridaceae (heath family) are well represented. From the latter family, two endemic species are of particular interest Richea Pandanifolia (pandani or giant grass tree) has leaves three to six feet long, hard, rigid and drooping, borne at the summit of a trunk which may be 20 to 30 feet high. Prionotes Cerinthoides (climbing heath) is a climber of epiphyte. It forms pendant sprays of small evergreen leaves and crimson bell-like flowers.

Impenetrable Scrub

Locally in poor acid soils where the water table is at or very near the surface an almost impenetrable scrub develops, the density of which is notorious. About five species are mainly concerned. Leptosperum lanigerum (woolly tea tree) forms dense stands of trees having slender, very tough trunks up to 50 feet high. The Sedges Gahnia psittacorum and G. Sieberi appropriately called ‘cutting grass’, grown in clumps which are often more than six feet in height and breadth. Bavera rubioides (family Cunoniaceae) has innumerable thin, wiry inter led branches often spreading over other shrubs to a height of 12 feet or more. The most unusual growth form is that of Anodopetalum biglandulosum (horizontal), an endemic representative of the family cononiaceae. This is a small evergreen tree making a closely packed understorey in the forest or forming pure stands in gullies. The trees sometimes grow erect with trunks up to 45 feet high but, typically, slender saplings arch towards the ground and many erect branches arise from the almost horizontal trunks. The branches in turn bend over, interlacing with each other and with branches from adjoining trees. In this way, dense platforms develop at varying heights above the ground.

Alpine/Subalpine Vegetation

Montane vegetation occurs on plateaux, mountain slopes and summits. It is characterised by plants which can withstand cold conditions – severe frosts, seasonal snow and strong winds, Although cloudy weather is frequent, there is a high light intensity and occasional very hot days in summer. These conditions cause slow growth and water stress so that the plants are short often stunted with small hard leaves and tough celled wood. The exposure to cold winds cuts young growth so that shrubs are rounded, each shoot protecting the next, a habit which reaches its extreme in the cushion plants.

Dwarf mountain forest may contain conifers such as the prostrate strawberry pine, Microcaerys tetragona, or the small and erect cheshunt pine, Diselma archer, and microstrobus niphophylus, both growing to about six feet, or perhaps stands of the deciduous beech, Nothofagus gunnii, a 15 feet high tree on sheltered hillsides or a prostrate shrub clinging to the rocky faces of high slopes.

Mountain shrubberies are found in poor rocky soils in exposed situations. They are filled with diverse and interesting plants especially of the daisy heath and protea families which provide a colourful display in summer and early autumn.

An interesting community which may be termed a microshrubbery develops on mountain tops, on the margins of shallow pools and on gentle slopes where snow may lie for up to six months of the year. Six species of cushion plant are concerned. The Pterygopappus lawrencii with its square stem tips is easily identified, but the other five form dark cushions which are very similar in appearance when not in flower. They are shrubby plants, prostrate with many parallel erect shoots, tightly packed and laced together by roots to make a rounded mound so firm that it does not dent when walked on. Such plants increase and may coalesce to form larger mounds. They grow across small water courses, impeding drainage and slowing run off to prevent erosion.

Coastal Heath Vegetation

Coastal heath is most extensive in the far north west, north east and islands of Bass Strait. It occurs on sandy soils often developed from windblown sand. Such soil is low in minerals needed for plant nutrition. The characteristic heath vegetation consists of shrubs less than two metres high with hard or leathery leaves. The trees are often small and stunted by strong wind.

Heathland is maintained by burning; if no fire occurs the shrubs become taller forming a scrub forest or eventually an open woodland. Heath species show various adaptations which enable them to survive fire; very many send up new shoots from bulbs, rhizomes, or woody knobbed rootstocks buried beneath the damp soil; some like Banksia and Hakea produce woody fruits which protect the seeds during fires and need heat to dry and open them.

Button Grass Plains

Extensive areas throughout Tasmania carry sedge moors which are given the descriptive name ‘Button grass plains’. The characteristic plant is Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus (Cyperacene) which grows in tussocks consisting of hard, narrow leaves, three to six feet long, with long slender flower stalks terminating in spherical heads of flowers and fruits.

This plant community may usually be found on wet, peaty acid soils. Other monocotyledons, particularly representatives of the Restionaceae, are abundant and sometimes dominant. The yellow flowered species of Xyris (family –Xyriolaceae) and mauve flowered Patersonia fragilis (iridaceae) are widespread and between the tussocks small herbaceous plants are often frequent. Where the soil becomes better drained, woody shrubs appear Sprengelia incarnata (epacridaceae) is characteristic; others include species of Leptospermum and of Melaleuca, representatives of the Myrtaceae.

Wet and Dry Sclerophyll Forest

Wet Sclerophyll or Eucalypt forest occurs on deep fertile soils in areas of high rainfall. The chief trees are the valuable hardwood species of Eucalypt e.g. E. Regnans, E. Sieberi, E. Obliqua.

The open canopy allows the development of a shrubby understorey and in areas where humidity is high rainforest species will grow myrtle, sassafras, tree ferns, Waratah and tea tree.

With decreasing rainfall wet sclerophyll passes into a more open forest, the dry sclerophyll forest, the most widespread Eucalypt being the endemic black peppermint, E. Amygdalina. Other species are rather local, changing with the soil type.

Acacia, Banksia, Casuarina and Exocarpus form the understorey trees; there is often a lower shrub layer of pea flowers and heath species.


1983, Carlos Sombrero, Student Exchange To Canary Isles

Report on the visit to the Canary Islands

by Carlos Sombrero, Kew Guild Award Scheme recipient

The visit took place from the 24th of April to the 25th of May.

The main purpose of the visit was to investigate the conservation programme in these islands. Another objective was to collect plant material for several departments at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and for Dr. F. A. Bisby of Southampton University.

Only Gran Canaria and Tenerife were visited. It was thought unwise to visit Lanzarote and Fuerteventura on the time available, as they come under the jurisdiction of the Gran Canaria Province.

It can be said that most of the objectives were achieved, if not fully, at least partially.

The Conservation Programme in the Island of Gran Canaria
In Gran Canaria, not including other islands under its jurisdiction, 27 reserves were going to be proposed at the time of my visit; one reserve has already been approved. One is for an area to be a National Park (Pilancones-Ayagaure), six to be Natural Reserves (Parques Naturales), and 20 Sites of Scientific and Special Interest.

in accordance with the recommendations set by the World Conservation Strategy (WC.S.), priority for conservation will be given to endangered species that are sole representatives throughout the world, endemic taxa, and wild representatives of crop plants and other taxa of potential use to man.

One of the difficulties to establish conservation sites in the Canarian archipelago is the very complex administration system. Several Bodies are involved in the governing of the Province. These are Central Government, the City Council (Ayuntamiento), and the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular).

All conservation in Spain comes under the auspice of I.C.O. N.A. (Instituto para la Conservacion de la Naturaleza) which depends on the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and therefore of Central Government. Matters concerning urbanisation in the island are controlled by the City Council, or Ayuntamiento. All other affairs are dealt with by the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular). As if this was not difficult enough, the Autonomous Government which has just been elected will also have legal powers, but what these powers will entail nobody knew at the time of its election.

A Contract of Agreement between the Insular Council and I.C.O.N.A. was signed on the 10th of March 1982, in order to unify their efforts in scientific and educational work. The validity of the Agreement is for four years, except when one of the signatories decides to terminate it earlier.

The aims of the Agreement are:
1. “The conservation of genetic resources of Canarian flora by the installation of germoplasm banks, cell/tissue culture, and other methods aimed at conservation.”
2. “Ecological surveying of Gran Canaria with a view to determining the status of habitats.”
3. “The planning of conservation areas in publicly owned land and the reconstruction of habitats of autochthonous flora in adequate areas.”
4. “Education of the public byway of seminars, lectures, publications, etc., and the signalising of Nature Trails in areas of utmost floristicinterest.”

In order to implement the above aims, a Commission has been set up. The members of the Commission are:
(i) The Director of I.C.O.N.A.
(ii) The President of the Insular Council.
(iii) The Regional Inspector of I.C.O.N.A.
(iv) The Director of the Botanic Garden “Viera y Clavijo”

I.C.O.N.A. will supply the economic backing plus planners, agronomists, foresters, geologists, and other scientists, while the Insular Council, by means of its Botanic Garden “Viera y Clavijo”, will provide research facilities and botanical expertise.

By law, all proposed sites have to be given a Public Hearing before they can be declared conservation areas.

Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry in Relation to Conservation
It would be reasonable to suppose that tourism, agriculture and forestry have had a damaging effect on local flora.

Due to mismanagement of the forest in the past, it is plausible that many taxa have been threatened, and perhaps some lost altogether. The most damage has been caused by the indiscriminate cutting of pine and laurel woods, which has led to erosion in most of the island.

A secondary harmful effect on the flora has been achieved indirectly by the destruction of the trees. This is because of what is termed “horizontal rain” (Iluvia horizontal), that is to say the water deposited on the vegetation by condensation of clouds. This is thought to be a serious problem as much of the island water reserves are very low due to very little vertical rain in recent years. If the contribution made by horizontal rain is too small because of deforestation, then the island may be facing very severe consequences indeed.

Agricultural damage to lowland vegetation is difficult to assess as there is a lack of information as to which taxa were present in these areas In the first place. Even so, some losses must have occurred. Fortunately, the highest concentration of taxa is in the mountainous regions where agriculture is not as intensive as in the more profitable lowland.

The introduction by agriculture of certain alien plants such as Agave americana, Opuntia spp., Rubus ulmifolius and others, may prove very harmful for many local taxa as they are colonising large regions of the island and their control will have to be undertaken soon in certain floristically rich endemic sites before these invaders take over.

Agriculture uses large quantities of water which is extracted from wells and galeries all over the island. Some of these wells and galeries are located in taxa-rich areas in the mountains where the flora depends for its survival on the moisture of the rocks, as is the case with some ferns. It appears that the only way to solve this necessary evil is a more efficient use of the available water by agriculture o rthe alternative may be to forbid the removal of water from these areas entirely.

A serious problem that may occur due to agriculture Is the contamination of water with chemicals used by this industry. Most of all the water used in the island comes from a natural subterranean reservoir. The contamination of this reservoir will not only affect plants but, more important still, people. There is already some concern in certain quarters due to the intensive and systematic use of chemicals, from fertilisers to herbicides, and the possibility of infiltration of these substances into the water cycle.

As far as tourism is concerned, most naturalists in the island regard it as harmless to conservation. This is only true in the direct sense, as indirectly tourism has done a lot of damage to at least one ecosystem: Maspalomas dunes system. The Maspalomas hotel explosion in recent years has been built inside the dunes natural system while the fresh water pond, also nearby, has been opened to the sea. All this has been done in order to procure a sun-worshipping, mainly Northern European tourist, by an “ignorant” local land owner.

The collection of wild plants by tourists does not seem to have caused any damage to threatened taxa, as far as we are aware. That wild plants have been gathered cannot be doubted. There should be strict control on unauthorised collecting, regardless of the rarity of the plants.

Local naturalists appear rather reserved when placing any sort of blame on the tourists, as they are obviously afraid that this may harm their public image, and they usually blame any damage on the authorities for lack of public vision. Whether this is entirely true or not Is difficult to estimate, but tourists can be critised for the lack of conservation awareness that some of them show.

Conservation Awareness in Gran Canaria
There are several conservation groups in the island that operate a policing role on the environment. Among the more prominent groups is A.S.C.A.N. (Asociacion Canaria para Defensa de la Naturaleza) which, in conjunction with the Insular Council of Gran Can aria, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.), and the World Wildlife Fund (WW.F.), produced the Red Data Book of Renewable Natural Resources. A.S.C.A.N. can also claim the success of having a weekly column in a local newspaper as well as two hours of radio a week. This is perhaps more than similar conservation groups have achieved in this country. Despite their success with the media, some people in the local administration think that they are far too idealistic and lack problem solving ideas.

Conservation Sites Visited
Some of the more important floristic areas were toured. These included visits to:

Los Tiles de Moya
This is thought to be a Tertiary laurel forest relic that once abounded in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. The laurel species include Acotea foetens (Aiton) Benth and Hook, F., lIex canariensis Poir, Laurus azorica (Seub.) Franco, Apollonias barbujana (Cav.) Bornm, Persea indica (L) Spreng.

The ecosystem has been given legal protection after its impoverished state was indicated by the German botanist G. Kunkel in the 70’s.

The reserve covers an extension of 44 hectares and is closed to the public for picnicking, but not for walking.

At present, it has been planted with autochthonous laurel species till the natural cycle can be restored.

Many endemic plants grow in this area, among the more striking plants being Canarina canariensis (L) Vatke.

It is proposed to be a 20 km’ reserve including 4 km’ of sand dunes; the only such ecosystem in the whole archipelago. It is not a taxa-rich area, its main asset being the dune system, endemic lizards, and being a migration zone for birds.

La Caldera de Baldama
Of ecological and floristic importance. The more important plant in this depression is Sideroxylon marmulano Banks, that it was thought to be extinct in the island till its recent rediscovery. The opposite has happened with Isoplexis isabellina (Webb. & Berth.) Masf., a Gran Canaria endemic that has been lost from this area.

It is proposed to be a 40 hectares reserve. The main issue for its conservation being a local endemic, Solanum lidii Sunding.

Playa de Jinamar
This reserve site is suggested to be a few hectares in extension. In this area under the advertising placards and facing the sea, a local endemic plant grows, Lotus kunkelii (Steve) Bramwell & Davis. Because of its unique clamitic-edaphologistic requirements, it has proven impossible to grow in cultivation as yet, and for this reason alone it is of great ecological value.

Other visits were also made to the Riscos de Guadayeque, where Kunkeliella canariensis Stearn is said to grow, the Pinarde Tamadaba and the proposed National Park of Pilancones-Ayagaure.

Visit to Tenerife
Five days were spent in the most botanically rich island of the whole Canarian archipelago.

A visit to La Ladera de Guimar, on the east of the island, was made in order to collect some living material. Plants collected were: Cheilanthes pulchella, Monanthes brachycaulon (Webb. & Berth.) Lowe, Davallia canariensis Sm. All collecting was done under the supervision’of Dr. Santos Guerra of I.N.I.A. (Instituto National de Investigaciones Agrarias).

A trip was also arranged by Dr. Santos Guerra to Las Canadas del Teide (Teide National Park) where many endemic taxa are legally protected. Some of the more outstanding plants seen in flower at the time were Echium wilpretii Pearson ex Hook. fil., Viola cheiranthifolia H.B. & K., Spartocytissus supranubius (L) Webb. & Berth., and Descurainia bourgeana Webb. ex O.E. Schulz.

Near Las Canadas, in an army exercise field, Erigeron cabrera was located and a dry specimen was collected for the Kew Herbarium. This is a new species shortly to be published by a local botanist and only grown in this “inhospitable” habitat.

The establishing of conservation reserves in Tenerife is in a less advanced state than in Gran Canaria. The only site under legal protection being the Teide National Park. This is unfortunate since Tenerife has the highest number of species in the whole archipelago.

In the Jardin de Aclimatacion de la Orotava it was very enlightening to see many tropical plants growing quite satisfactorily outdoors. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that botanic gardens with such favourable environmental conditions should be developed into international centres for the conservation of threatened tropical taxa without the high cost of the present conservation programme in the Northern Temperate Zone botanic gardens. The only drawback to this strategy is the lack of trained gardening personnel in regions such as the Canary Islands.

The Botanic Garden. “Viera y Clavijo”
Most of the stay in the Canary Islands was spent in this centre as a result of the Kew Student’s Exchange Scheme.

The botanic garden was established in the island of Gran Canaria by the Swedish botanist E. Sventenius with the economic backing of the Insular Council (Cabildo Insular) 30 years ago.

D. Enrique, as he was known by the locals, was one of those people who merited the respect of not only his fellow scientists throughout the world but also the local people; everybody has a story to tell about this remarkable man. His name will pass to posterity if only because of Sventenia bupleuroides Font Quer. He discovered in the region of70 new species in the Canarian flora, eight subspecies and about 35 varieties.

The garden has the best collection of Macaronesian flora anywhere in the world. The collection includes endemic Macaronesian taxa, Canarian endemics and a fairly large collection of cacti. It has an extension of about 20 acres and is beautifully landscaped, making maximum use of the terrain. It comprises a hillside and a valley bed. The hillside can be climbed by a series of winding paths with an ingenious layout that does not spoil the overall natural look of the slope. Another very attractive feature of the garden are the small waterfalls. The story is told that when D. Enrique was building these little cascades he would move the small pieces of rock in numerous directions until the water running past sounded harmonious – he was a great lover of classical music.

The scientific section of the garden is carrying out work on gathering data on endemic populations in order to advise the Insular Council on their present status. Other fields of work include taxonomy, pollenology, cytology, seed bank and micro-propagation. There are only five fulltime biologists and 12 other scientists working on project grants, some of these projects include fauna.

As far as the botanic garden is concerned, the main problem is the total lack of trained gardening staff. For this reason the Director is considering setting upa training programme in conjunction with a local technical college to improve general gardening practice.

A great deal was learnt about conservation in the Canary Islands by listening to local people as well as scientists. Discussion on the establishment of conservation sites with planners, botanists, conservation groups, and Governmental Bodies plus visiting proposed areas was most revealing. Four hundred transparencies were taken during the visit.

As a result of my stay in “Viera y Clavijo” a small propagation mist unit was installed, although I never saw it fully operational as one of the components wasn’t in working order and it proved very difficult to acquire another in the island.

My thanks go to everybody that made this trip possible, in particular to the sponsors: Kew Student’s Exchange Scheme, Kew Guild, the Biological Council and Dr. F. A. Bisby.

I would also like to thank those people that helped me while in the Canary Islands, specially the Director of “Viera y Clavijo”, Dr. D. Bramwell, and Dr. Santos Guerra of I.N.I.A. who drove me personally around Tenerife.