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Manx herbarium: flowering plants and ferns now on iMuseum

Posted on 10.05.2017

Thanks to the work of Andree Dubbeldam of the Wildflowers of Mann and volunteer Joyce Quilliam, Manx National Heritage has over a thousand herbarium records on iMuseum, many of which include photographs captured by Andree and Joyce.

The photographs show an historic herbarium (a collection of preserved plant specimens) collected from around the Isle of Man. The herbarium is a ‘merged’ collection; that is, there are several collectors represented, including Talbot, Holt, Cyril Paton, D.E. Allen and others. Specimens mostly date from between 1930 and the 1960s but a few specimens go back as far as the 1890s.

Image ref: 2010-0027/1463: Greater Butterfly Orchid, collected from West Baldwin in 1867

This particular specimen, an Orchid, is very old. Some of it has been lost (you can see the ‘ghost’ of missing flowers on the herbarium sheet). It’s from West Baldwin, which is interesting to MNH as we have no recent knowledge of this plant occurring in the area. Historic records tell us this meadow plant is typical of a species which was once more widespread and common in the Isle of Man than it is now.

Orchids capture the imagination because of their exotic appearance. Apart from a couple of species, they are relatively rare in the Isle of Man, depending as they do on particular habitat and soil conditions to grow. They can be fickle too, sometimes not appearing for years and then suddenly popping up – if the habitat still exists of course. Orchids are all protected by law nowadays and collecting a specimen for pressing would definitely be frowned upon!

Image ref: 2010-0027/133: Greater spearwort, collected from The Lhen, 1800s

Image ref: 2010-0027/78: Male fern, collected from Mount Murray, 1800s

Some of the specimens are showing their age and over time have suffered the depredations of dust accumulation and insect pest attack. However they still give us an insight into the Island’s past flora, many specimens coming from sites which have since been radically changed and no longer support the diversity of plants that they used to.

Image ref: 2010-0027/60: Black spleenwort, collected from Glen Maye, 1800s

Image ref: 2010-0027/26: Great Horsetail, collected from Douglas, July 1915

The herbarium photographs were taken as part of work to extract historical information for the New Flora of the Isle of Man. Our thanks go to Andree and Joyce for the completion of this very useful archive. The herbarium is available to view on iMuseum.

Kate Hawkins (Manx National Heritage Curator of Natural History)