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,…

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),…

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 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 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…

An island of flowers – Part 8: The West (well, actually mostly the North!)

As car rentals on-the-spot proved to be extremely expensive, and local buses rather impractical on a limited amount of time, we decided to go with one of the hundreds of minibuses that tour the island every day carrying German grannies from one viewpoint to the other…never mind the German grannies, the “West Tour” that we chose…

An island of flowers – Part 6: The Levadas

Madeira’s landscape is dotted with over 2000 km of levadas, which are unique irrigation channels bringing water down from the mountains to fields and coastal towns. Started in the 15th century, the network of levadas has been extended and improved (the first ones were built in wood!). These narrow (20-100cm wide) channels following the contours of the landscape…

An island of flowers – Part 4: Madeira Botanical garden

Reached by a short drive from the centre of Funchal, the Jardim Botanico, located 300m above sea level is a relatively recent botanic garden (opened in 1960), but full of surprises. We start our visit by the spectacular Succulents zone, with the orange flower heads of Aloe striata and red ones of Aloe plicatilis : As…

A botanical walk with no frontiers

As some of you will know, I was born in North East France, very close to Luxembourg and Germany, in a region known as “The Land of the Three Borders“. Two years ago, I had introduced you to the orchid-rich nature reserve of Montenach. This time, I visit a nearby hill with an interesting geological background…….

A New Year filled with flowers?

If you’ve read my previous post on Plant Hunting in the 21st Century, well, don’t be surprised, this is a different kind of Plant Hunt! Organised by the Botanical Society Britain and Ireland, aka BSBI, the New Year’s Day Plant Hunt, now in its third year, is quite simple in principle. These were the rules: 1….

Plant Hunting in the 21st century

Last month, I attended a lecture on “Plant Hunting in the 21st century” at the Linnean Society in London. Organised by the Systematics Association, it was given by John Wood, Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford and keen plant collector. With Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace watching carefully, this could only be an interesting and controversial session….

Rainbow colours

No, I’m not talking real rainbows…the rainfall over Surrey has been really low this month, and the sight of yellow lawns and falling leaves might well be a lasting one! I’m talking grasslands, chalk grasslands again, but this time a bit different from the ones found in Guildford. This is Sheepleas reserve, managed by Surrey…

Of grasses and orchids

The area around Guildford is mostly made of chalk grasslands, which are just looking marvellous at this time of the year. Here are some pictures of a quick walk I did in a small reserve overlooking Guildford, Merrow Downs which is also home to Guildford Golf Club. As the name states, this is above all a…