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…

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…

Southern Hemisphere in Scotland: Benmore Botanic Garden

Scotland’s flagship botanic garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is, contrary to its name not entirely based in the city of Edinburgh. The collection is split across four sites: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore, each having their own specialties. Benmore, set within the Loch Lomond &  Trossachs National Park, is distinguished by its mountain character, and high rainfall (>2000mm) which makes it such…

A glimpse of Victorian Scotland

A change of scene (and country) for my next posts, which will be taking you to Scotland. The first stop on our trip is the Isle of Bute, a tiny piece of land located 30 miles West of Glasgow. Bute is usually reached by a ferry which arrives in the delightful town of Rothesay. This is the…

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…

Ten days in Vietnam part 6: from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay

We leave Sapa in the afternoon, and head back to Lao Cai for the return overnight train journey to Hanoi. After a 2 hour train journey to Hai Phong, and an hour boat journey, we arrive on Cat Ba island, one of the two starting points to explore the very famous Ha Long Bay (think James Bond beach…

Ten days in Vietnam part 5: Mount Fansipan, 2800m to 1940m

After a good night sleep on the camp, we woke up to the smell of banana and (local) honey pancakes, ad were greeted by a nice blue sky. A few nice plants around the camp include a Viburnum with striking berries, and a Gentiana: Soon however, we are back to clouds, and scrambling mode: Many Scheffleras…

Ten days in Vietnam part 4: Mount Fansipan, 2250m to 2800m

After at light lunch at the first camp, we set back towards the second camp where we will spend the night. The sun comes out, and makes the mountain look magnificent: In open areas, we start noticing more and more bamboo species, some compact and shrubby, others much larger and spreading. Trees include large Magnolia, red-petioled Daphniphyllum…

Ten days in Vietnam part 3: Mount Fansipan, 1940m to 2250m

The next morning, we get up early to a sunny mountain view: After a short car journey, we reach the permit office of Mount Fansipan National Park, Tram Ton, at an altitude of 1940m and meet with the porters who will carry our water, food and bags. Note the guide carving a bamboo stem –…