Trees of Trinity College Dublin – launch

Trees of Trinity College Dublin (4th edition) – launch of booklet

The new booklet, edited by Daniel Kelly and our own David Hackett, was launched during Green Week, on Wednesday 20th February 2019. The launch was hosted by The Department of Botany and The College Botanical Society. The guest of honour was Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle, Co. Westmeath, Chairman of the Irish Tree Society, historian, writer and tree enthusiast.

Launched at 2.30 p.m. In the beautiful Botany Lecture Theatre and chaired by Professor Jennifer McElwain, Head of Botany. There was two wonderful talks, one entitled ‘The role of the arboretum’ by Thomas Pakenham and the other ‘The trees of Trinity College’ was given by Daniel L. Kelly.

tct trees book 3 lo res

The book itself is a great credit to all involved, the imagery and information on the trees of Trinity College Dublin are meticulously gathered together in a easy to read format and best of all it is easier than ever to locate a specific tree on one of their detailed maps. Well done to all.  

Also included is a lovely image of snow capped Oriental Planes, two of the trees included in our last exhibition. See image below.

tct book 2 lo res

The art of botanical illustrations

During my background research for this project I came across a selection of lovely botanical illustrations of a selection of the trees species included in our project.  I have spread them throughout this piece of text outlining the background and recent renaissance of the art form.

Botanical illustration is the art of depicting the form, color, and details of plant species, frequently in watercolor paintings. They must be scientifically accurate but often also have an artistic component and may be printed with a botanical description in book, magazines, and other media or sold as a work of art. Often composed in consultation with a scientific author, their creation requires an understanding of plant morphology and access to specimens and references.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Early herbals and pharmacopoeia of many cultures have included the depiction of plants. This was intended to assist identification of a species, usually with some medicinal purpose. The earliest surviving illustrated botanical work is the Codex vindobonensis. It is a copy of Dioscorides’s De Materia Medica, and was made in the year 512 for Juliana Anicia, daughter of the former Western Roman Emperor Olybrius. The problem of accurately describing plants between regions and languages, before the introduction of taxonomy, were potentially hazardous to medicinal preparations. The low quality of printing of early works sometimes presents difficulties in identifying the species depicted.

When systems of botanical nomenclature began to be published, the need for a drawing or painting became optional. However, it was at this time that the profession of botanical illustrator began to emerge. The eighteenth century saw many advances in the printing processes, and the illustrations became more accurate in colour and detail. The increasing interest of amateur botanists, gardeners, and natural historians provided a market for botanical publications; the illustrations increased the appeal and accessibility of these to the general reader. The field guides, Floras, catalogues and magazines produced since this time have continued to include illustrations. The development of photographic plates has not made illustration obsolete, despite the improvements in reproducing photographs in printed materials. A botanical illustrator is able to create a compromise of accuracy, an idealized image from several specimens, and the inclusion of the face and reverse of the features such as leaves. Additionally, details of sections can be given at a magnified scale and included around the margins around the image.

Botanical illustration is a feature of many notable books on plants, a list of these would include:

  • Vienna Dioscurides

  • Flora Graeca

  • The Banksias

  • Curtis’s Botanical Magazine

  • The Cactaceae

Recently a renaissance has been occurring in botanical art and illustration. Organisations devoted to furthering the art form are found in the US (American Society of Botanical Artists), UK (Society of Botanical Artists), Australia (Botanical Art Society of Australia), and South Africa (Botanical Artists Association of South Africa), among others. The reasons for this resurgence are many. In addition to the need for clear scientific illustration, botanical depictions continue to be one of the most popular forms of “wall art”. There is an increasing interest in the changes occurring in the natural world, and in the central role plants play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. A sense of urgency has developed in recording today’s changing plant life for future generations. Working in media long understood provides confidence in the long-term conservation of the drawings, paintings, and etchings. Many artists are drawn to more traditional figurative work, and find plant depiction a perfect fit. Working with scientists, conservationists, horticulturists, and galleries locally and around the world, today’s illustrators and artists are pushing the boundaries of what has traditionally been considered part of the genre.

Science Notes: Cherry Blossom Buds

SCIENCE NOTES: Autumn Cherry Blossom Bud

How much of a tree is alive, do you think? Actually only about 1%, though all of it was alive at some time or other. Wood is made up of cells, and like all living things cells will grow and multiply, and they will die. All the wood in the middle of a tree is dead. There are only two places on a tree where you find living wood. One is a thin layer just underneath the bark, and the other place is the buds. I’m talking here not about the flower buds, but the buds which are forming the new twigs and leaves. Here’s one from the autumn-flowering Cherry Blossom, seen through Clodagh’s electron microscope.

Autumn Cherry Bud fig1

In this relatively low mag picture you can appreciate the shape of the whole bud. If we zoom in a little you notice that some parts of the delicate outer leaf structures have broken, revealing several layers of living cells.

Autumn Cherry Bud fig2

The cells in a tree multiply by dividing (which sounds like a mathematical contradiction!). A tree has different types of cells to do different jobs, such as bark, roots, leaves etc. All cells start off the same, and like the stem cells in your body they differentiate into specialist types. The cells in this picture are doing the job of protecting the growing bud: quite quickly they will break up and be replaced, in fact the strange wiggly things in the picture are the remnants of earlier protective layers.

Science Notes: Lichen on Trees

We found lichen on many of the trees around the campus. And that’s very good for us, because lichens only grow where the air is clean. In the 1970’s there was almost no lichen to be found on trees in urban environments because of air pollution and acid rain.

Lichens are fascinating organisms. In fact they are not one organism at all. They are made up of a fungus and one or more algae living together in a mutually-beneficial relationship – a kind of mini-ecosystem. The fungus makes up most of what you see: it surrounds and protects the algae. In return the algae feed the fungus (which is unable to feed itself) by photosynthesis.

The beauty of lichens is not easy to see: you need at least a magnifying glass to appreciate them, but an electron microscope is even better. Here are two photos which Clodagh took of lichen on the Oregon Maples:

 Lichen fig1

In the top photo you can see the filament structure of the fungus. The small circular shapes in the bottom photo may be cells of the algae.

Lichens are great survivors. You find them all over the planet in many different environments. And it turns out that they can even survive in space! The European Space Agency arranged to take some lichen up to the International Space Station where they brought them outside, exposing them to the ultra-cold vacuum of open space, where they would be bombarded by cosmic rays and everything. No space suits for them, but they still survived the trip: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Lichen_survives_in_space

 

 

The Physic/ medicinal garden

Over the next four days I will add one post per day about our ongoing interest in the Physic garden in Trinity College Dublin.

lavender_ stoechas_in_our_physic_garden.jpgFor this first post I would like to give a brief background to the garden itself. Tomorrow I will highlight the sage plant. The following post will illustrate some of the SEM images we have already taken of the sage plant. Finally I will round up by talking about our dilemma in choosing which plant to focus are research on.

So to start off with Trinity College initiated a physic garden on the main college campus in 1687 to provide plant material to support the teaching of medicine. By 1173 this garden had become derelict, and was partly used to dump offal from the Anatomy Department.

In 2011 to mark 300 years of Botany, Chemistry and Medicine at Trinity College, Dr Henery Oakeley, Garden Fellow at the Royal College of Physicians of London opened the new Physic (medicinal) garden on the main campus of Trinity College. The garden features sixty plants of medicinal interest and aims to highlight where some medicines come from.

Although some plants are still used in herbal medicines, modern drug development relies more on finding novel chemical of medicinal value in plants and then reproducing this chemical through biosynthesis techniques on an industrial scale to produce the relevant drug. Botany is no longer taught to medical students however the links to drug discovery and development are still as strong as ever. The Physic garden showcases medicinal plants of ancient and contemporary medicinal relevance and regonises the linkage between the disciplines of Botany, Chemistry and Medicine. It is situated between the Hamilton and Llyod Building at the East end of the campus. (excerpt taken from – Trinity News and Events – 21st April 2011)