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2 Posts tagged with the solanum tag
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Some of the spectacular scenery that Sandy Knapp has photographed on her fieldtrip to China

 

Sandy Knapp continues to search for aubergines (Solanum melongena) and other interesting Solanum species in China, and I've been reading her blog with interest.

 

Aubergine varieties seem to have evaded discovery so far - a farmer in one of the locations she visited said his crop had failed due to the cold weather, but there are apparently lots of other interesting crops and plant life to be seen, and in some cases eaten.

 

On Monday Sandy was served the leaves of the black nightshade, Solanum nigrum, which is a common weed in Britain and thought to be poisonous! She says it was obviously not very, at least in China. A braver approach than I'd have, and I was relieved to read from her blog posts later in the week that she didn't seem to be any the worse for it.

 

Sandy's not just exploring fields, brush and spectacular limestone mountains: she found another species, Solanum torvum, growing in a rubbish dump in the north of China. Who said fieldwork isn't glamorous!

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It's worth it though. Yesterday she wrote that they'd found their first exciting Solanum species - Solanum violaceum (shown right). Although it's a common species, she wants to compare it carefully throughout its range to other species that may or may not be the same.

 

Not all of her observations have been positive. She has seen first-hand evidence of habitat destruction in the beautiful and biologically interesting limestone hills near Gansu. She says mining for stone and gravel will have destroyed many of them by next year, along with the native flora that grows there.

 

I look forward to finding out more about Sandy's travels, including whether she finds the elusive aubergine and whether she's served up any other risky dishes.

 

Read Sandy's blog, Investigating aubergines in China.

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It's always nice to see our scientists getting recognition for the work they do: Dr Sandy Knapp, a Merit Researcher in the Botany Department, has received the American Society of Plant Taxonomists' Peter Raven Award for 'outstanding contributions to public education in systematic botany'.

 

The commendation was well-deserved, as Sandy regularly involves herself in a range of public outreach activities - from public lectures to radio interviews. Among other things, she has recently helped develop the stunning exhibitions in the Museum’s new Darwin Centre.

 

Sandy says the award means a lot to her as Peter Raven (of the Missouri Botanical Garden) has been one of her most valued mentors throughout her career in botany. She also feels it is particularly special to receive an award in the 'Darwin year'.

 

Here's a picture of Sandy with Professor David Spooner, who presented her with the award at the American Society of Plant Taxonomists' banquet during the 2009 Botany and Mycology Conference in Snowbird, Utah, USA:

 

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As well as receiving her award, Sandy was there for the closing project meeting for Planetary Biodiversity Inventory (PBI) Solanum, which she co-led. You can find out more about the project on the Solanaceae Source website. Another of our botanists, Dr Maria Vorontsova, gave a presentation on ‘African spiny Solanum: a thorny taxonomic tangle’.

 

It sounds like the meeting was a lot of fun and apparently the scenery in Snowbird is spectacular - I've never been myself. But Sandy assures us the science was new and exciting enough to ensure the mind didn't wander. She's hoping more of our botanists can come and enjoy next year's meeting in Rhode Island - anyone who's interested should check out the Botany 2010 meeting website.