Warren Farm and the value of nature

This is a picture of grassland. Just a piece of grassland, with trees in the background, some yellow, white and purple flowers in the foreground. What’s so special about it, that I feel the urge to write a blog post? This is Warren Farm, a 61 acres site around 8 miles West of Central London….

When is a wildflower not a wildflower…

On July 2nd, BBC News published an article with this headline: Why are England’s roadsides blooming?. The article goes on to explain that “the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows in less than a century”, and that “roadside verges are particularly hard hit”. Both statements stem from a campaign by the charity Plantlife,…

Andalucia in Spring, Part 2: Grazalema and the Sierra del Pinar

If you enjoyed the daffodils in Part 1 of the series, brace yourselves for more plants in Part 2. In this post we travel from the hotel through the village of Grazalema, and we gain a bit of height in the Sierra del Pinar (Pine Grove Mountain Range). To get started, a morning picture from the…

Andalucia in Spring, Part 1 (of many): on the hunt for wild daffodils

As hinted in my previous post (A day in Malaga), I had the wonderful opportunity to co-lead two weeks of nature tour in Andalucia, Southern Spain, last month for Naturetrek. Having painstakingly labelled my 1,143 pictures, I am keen to share a few here (there may be blue sky and colourful flowers involved, I am…

A day in Malaga: beyond the Costa del Sol

I was recently given the wonderful opportunity to co-lead botanical tours in Andalucia, Southern Spain, with the wildlife holidays company NatureTrek. More about that later… As I was getting to Malaga earlier than the group, I had a day to explore the city, and of course to discover its botanical heritage. After a misty arrival…

Alpines treasures in the Swiss Jura mountains

I was lucky last year to be able to attend the 6th Global Botanic Gardens Congress  organised by BGCI (the worldwide association of botanic gardens), possibly the best assembly of people interested in plants, whether they are scientists, gardeners, science journalists or education professionals. Held in Geneva, Switzerland, it took place over a week in June 2017,…

When old and new go together in Malmö, Sweden

As part of the We love plants! conference, our group of speakers was treated to a tour of the city of Malmö. For my 1st visit to Northern Europe, it was a fascinating day of discoveries. It started with a trip to Pildammsparken (the aptly named “Willowpond Park”), the largest park in the city with 45…

First there were rocks…

I am a botanist. I studied taxonomy, I learned all about plant ecology, I spent days looking at pollen grains under a microscope, I became a master of identification keys. Life made me deviate into horticulture, or shall I say, the art of understanding how to keep plants alive in cultivation. There is however one…

Danish day

I was invited earlier this year to talk at a brilliant conference in Malmö, Sweden (more about this later). My travel plans made for an early arrival into Copenhagen, Denmark (different country but only 20 minutes train apart). First glimpse of Scandinavian design at the airport, with this stylish church-like terminal building: As I had…

Borneo memories – Kinabatangan river

This blog post is going to feature a trip I made in 2010 to Borneo’s Kinabatangan river. What could prompt me to go so far down memory lane? The answer is a campaign launched on Twitter to save this Bornean biodiversity heaven from destruction. English naturalist & TV presenter Steve Backshall and his wife, Olympic champion rower Helen…

Plants in blue for Blue Monday

If you’ve spent five minutes reading the news yesterday, you have probably been unable to escape stories about the mysterious “Blue Monday“. “Blue Monday” is a rather poetic name given to the third Monday in January, deemed to be “the most depressing day of the year”. This claim is supported by a range of serious-looking…

Mistletoe mysteries

On January 1st, I have put up mistletoe on my front door. …now it is time to exchange kisses under this bunch of greeny-yellow stems and leaves, and wish each other a Happy New Year. But why on earth do we do that? European Mistletoe, known as Viscum album in latin (due to its sticky, white berries),…

Behind the monoculture

I have recently moved to North East France, my home region. Around here, most fields at this time of the year are filled by wheat, barley, rye or oats, making wonderful golden tinted pictures in the sun. But in some fields cereals are all that can be seen. Not a single weed in sight, not the…