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,…

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…

An ode to the unsung heroes of spring: buds

Ask ten people what they like about spring, and half of them will probably mention flowers – lovely bright daffodils, carpets of multicoloured primroses, streets filled with cherry trees… Gardeners wait eagerly for shrubs and trees to emerge from their winter sleep and become covered in tender green leaves. But before that, there’s a very short,…

Austria, from Christmas markets to alpine flora

A trip to Austria’s 4th largest city, Salzburg, in mid-December, surely this means spending days in Christmas markets, tasting bretzels and buying baubles? Truth is, we did try a fair number of mulled wines (and even better, Glühmost, made with apple cider and many spices…hmmm). We enjoyed the sparkling lights, the hearty food, the joyful music and the…

A Scottish gothic folly, Mount Stuart

Advertised as “Britain’s most astounding Victorian Gothic mansion”, Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is a rather impressive place. Home to the Marquesses of Bute, it was rebuilt in 1877 after a fire, and turned into a majestic Neogothic castle. The most interesting feature of Mount Stuart is however the 300 acres (120 hectares) gardens…

Ten days in Vietnam part 9: a glimpse of the Mekong Delta

The Mekong river, which rises in Tibet, ends its 4350km course in the South China Sea via a large delta covering over 39000 km², close to Vietnam’s largest city Ho Chi Minh. This means a boat trip to the delta is a very popular day trip for tourists, and we obviously got tempted. The view we…

Ten days in Vietnam part 8: Last day in Halong Bay

Our next trip in the National Park was the village of Viet Hai, which seems to be a forced stop for tourists who land on Cat Ba Island during their boat tours of the bay. The view, especially around sunset time is pretty: The village in itself has little charm, with its shops selling overpriced fruits and…

Ten days in Vietnam part 7: Cat Ba National Park

I have been ignoring the blog lately, but I think it is now time to finish my little Vietnamese adventure tales. After a night on the boat in Lan Ha Bay, we stopped the next morning on Cat Ba island to visit the 160 km² National Park. We opted for the walking option, which gently followed…