|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 513 February 1, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
It might be Yukon's most famous basement. Famous, that is, among botanists and other researchers of Arctic flora.
Bruce Bennett's herbarium essentially, a collection of preserved plant specimens has become internationally renowned for having one of the most extensive known collections of Yukon Arctic plants. It's all stored in his cozy Whitehorse basement.
It's been a decades-long labour of love for Bennett, who's amassed the collection as a hobbyist "not working for government or anything, just out collecting plants," he says.
"I was a collector. I used to collect beer cans, right? I had this whole wall of beer cans. I collected stamps, I collected coins, then I collected books. And now I collect plants."
He routinely sends his specimens to scholars and researchers around the world, and occasionally plays host when they prefer to come to Whitehorse to study the collection.
Bennett even has a plant named after him: Draba bruce-bennettii.
Bennett's herbarium just reached a milestone this week it now has 10,000 official specimens pressed, mounted, named and numbered. The 10,000th plant is an alpine fescue Bennett collected last summer near Milne Inlet on northern Baffin Island.
"Now I've come into another league, cause that's sort of the . many collections don't even become popular 'til they have more than 10,000 specimens," he said. Bennett started collecting since the 1990s, when he first moved to the North from British Columbia.
"There was no better place to go look at plants than in Yukon," he said.
Some of the things he's acquired for his collection are decades older, though. The oldest specimens were collected by Frederick Funston in 1896, before the Klondike gold rush. Bennett also has plants that were dried and displayed by legendary Yukon politician Martha Black.
He's also amassed a comprehensive library of books about plants and botany, but says he's run out of room for more and besides, "now, I pretty much have everything."
The herbarium even has an officially-recognized acronym (used by botanists to identify herbaria around the world) BABY, for Bruce A. Bennett, Yukon.
"They wanted me to call it 'YUKH' and I thought, 'I don't want my herbarium called yuck!' I said, 'It's just a little herbarium. Why can't we call it BABY?"
Linda Jennings, the assistant curator and manager of the University of British Columbia's herbarium, says Bennett's collection is nothing less than "a Canadian treasure that nobody knows about."
She's made use of his collection for years, but only met Bennett a couple of years ago. She remembers being surprised to discover that he had a day job, and a young family.
"We all kind of assumed he was this older guy who had not much to do than go and collect plants," she said.
Bennett goes to remote areas to collect plants that other botanists can study.
'If you don't have somebody walking, how are you going to know that something's shown up?' says one researcher.
Jennings has come to rely on Bennett to help track ecological changes in the North. She's interested in how the range of different plant species is changing as the climate warms.
She says Bennett is doing the legwork for countless other researchers when he finds and collects species in new, unexpected places.
"He is the one who's going to detect that first. If you don't have somebody walking, how are you going to know that something's shown up?" she asks.
"These people are important... they are literally documenting Canadian heritage." Nuri Benet Pierce, a botanist at San Diego State University, also sings Bennett and BABY's praises. She's made use of the collection to investigate the range and variety of plants in the Chenopodium genus.
"It's really not possible to do this kind of research without these very notable people who are out there, in very difficult conditions," she said. "Without these collections, you just don't make sense of anything. You see a plant and it doesn't mean anything. It only means something when I'm able to compare it and distinguish it from others.
"People forget how crucial the collections are."
Bennett says these days he's travelling further afield from Yukon to find new specimens. He says he likes to gather about 10 of the same plant species, from throughout its range.
"There's always questions, and if all you have is the plants in your backyard, you don't catch that variety," he said.
A bunch of Bennett's Arctic dandelions collected in Yukon, Nunavut, the N.W.T. and Alaska were recently shipped to a researcher who's studying North American dandelions ("Nobody's done a really good treatment," Bennett says).
He's not sure yet what will happen to his collection when he's no longer willing or able to keep it. BABY is aptly-named it's a relative infant among the world's herbaria. The oldest known herbarium, in Italy, dates to the 16th century.
Bennett hopes his specimens, now stacked in custom-built metal cabinets, will be around as long, and hopefully stay in Yukon.
"As long as they're kept dry and not too moist, and warm, they can remain in this state forever," he said.
"When the forest fire comes through, this cabinet is going to survive it's double-walled, it's sealed, and so they're protected."
From: Funk, V.A. & al. 2017. Guidelines for collecting vouchers and tissues intended for genomic work (Smithsonian Institution): Botany Best Practices Biodiversity Data Journal 5(4):1-24 January 2017 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313063513_Guidelines_for_collecting_vouchers_and_tissues_intended_for_genomic_work_Smithsonian_Institution_Botany_Best_Practices
The Smithsonian Institution's Department of Botany (includes the US National Herbarium, US) recently embarked on a project to voucher and collect genome quality tissue samples from the plants growing in mid-Atlantic botanical gardens, greenhouses, and arboreta (GGI -Gardens). This effort, funded by the Global Genome Initiative (GGI), is part of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN). The rise of GGI-Gardens happened in conjunction with the recent broad-scale increase in the department for collecting samples for genomic research. As a result, we have developed some 'best practices' that we present in this article. Although, some of the topics are specific to USA we hope they will be useful to a broader audience as a starting point for other 'Best Practices' documents. There is a Word file available for those who wish to amend this document for their own purposes. This manual began as a workflow document and developed into its current form as a result of our efforts to establish field collection standards for botanical collections in the Department of Botany (Smithsonian Institution) and associated tissue samples that are intended for incorporation into the National Museum of Natural History's (NMNH) Biorepository. We hope it will be useful for a variety of botanists but especially those who know how to collect plants and want to collect tissue samples that will be useful for genomic research, and those who are skilled in lab work and want to know how to properly voucher their tissue collections.
Questions: What is the floristic composition of the plant communities that inhabit the coastal salt marshes and adjacent wetlands of the temperate-boreal Pacific coast of North America? What are their ecological relationships in the zonal and successional gradients typical of coastal marsh systems? Does climate affect the latitudinal distribution of the azonal vegetation? What other environmental factors influence their distribution on the regional or local scale? What is the syntaxonomical framework of the communities analyzed? Study area: Pacific coast of North America between Oregon (42°05'N) and Alaska (61°30'N). Methods: Fieldwork was based on a set of 458 phytosociological relevés obtained by sampling 94 sites. In all localities, zonation was interpreted by considering transects from the shoreline inland. Through traditional phytosociological tabular classification, average linkage clustering and fidelity calculations, relevés were syntaxonomically classified. Syntaxa are described and interpreted according to their phytogeographical distribution, their relationships with macrobioclimates and bioclimates, and to the topographic and ecological gradients typical of coastal marshes. In order to compare the results of the European phytosociological classification with the American classification system, a crosswalk between units of the US National Vegetation Classification and syntaxa, and a key to the halophytic associations of western North America were performed. Results and conclusions: We describe the zonation of salt marshes and define the optimum zones for several helophytic and halophytic plants and communities. Despite being presently considered a type of azonal vegetation, supralitoral halophilous communities show clear relationships with the zonobiomes. Plant communities detected were finally ascribed to four classes (Asteretea tripolii, Juncetea breweri, Phragmito-Magno-Caricetea and Spartinetea maritimae), seven orders, eight alliances and 15 associations. Fourteen new syntaxa are described and typified according to ICPN: Caricetum lyngbyei, Caricion lyngbyei, Jaumeo carnosae-Sarcocornietalia perennis, Jaumeo carnosae-Sarcocornietum perennis, Jaumeo carnosae-Sarcocornion perennis, Potentillo pacificae-Calamagrostietum canadensis, Potentillo pacificae-Deschampsietum beringensis, Puccinellietum andersonii, Puccinellietum nutkaensis, Puccinellion nutkaensis, Sarcocornio perennis-Deschampsietum beringensis, Schoenoplectetum americani, Triglochino maritimae-Plantaginetum juncoidis and Triglochino maritimae-Sarcocornietum perennis.
I have been happily immersed in the pages of this gem since last week, which I found temporarily forgotten among the 'books I must read soon" shelf. When labors of love are as entertainingly written as this one, the reader definitely benefits, and The Outer Spores will charm and edify a great many other mycologists and nature-lovers. The 15 × 23 cm volume covers the mushrooms as well as the history of Haida Gwaii (the post-2010 name for the Queen Charlotte Islands), "a wild and unspoiled corner of the world and the home of the Haida, a people with a deep and rich culture." This overview of 635 species identified from >2900 mushroom collections gathered during a 5-year survey constitutes the "first ... guide dedicated to the fungi of Haida Gwaii."
The obligatory first chapter "about mushrooms" (here defined as "fungal fruiting bodies large enough to see") packs an impressive amount of information in ten pages and bears the imprimatur of the indomitable Bryce Kendrick (author of The Fifth Kingdom) by answering What are fungi? and What are Mushrooms? before moving on to ascomycete and basidiomycete basics, biological strategies, and a delightful drawing from Oluna's field notebook. Next follows a brief description of the 150 islands "that comprise a sort of miniature continent" accompanied by a map showing collection sites on the Queen Charlotte Windward Mountains, Skidegate Plateau, and Queen Charlotte Lowlands. A brief cultural history of the indigenous peoples follows; although the Haida did not traditionally consume mushrooms for food, they did venerate Tree-Fungus Man and used bracket fungi for tinder, medicines, and pigments.
Edible mushroom coverage begins with the inevitable safety cautions; here it appears that getting lost in the archipelago is more worrisome than the possibility of death by mushroom: the local forest district and search & rescue crews (motivated by the "significant cumulative cost of numerous searches") now find it more cost effective to distribute free survival kits (contained within a 1-litre water bottle) to pickers. With much of the area closed to mushroom picking, the authors devote five pages to where, when, and how to collect and eat/or preserve the mushroom quarry, closing with two duplicate (somewhat oddly, given the index on pp. 133139) lists of the region's 28 choice edibles with references to later comments and/or photos, the first alphabetized by Latin name and the second by common name. Coverage of the profitable commercial mushroom harvest (primarily of golden, rainbow, blue, and winter chanterelles) precedes a discussion of current and future forest management practices.
Species accounts of 14 edible and 22 "notable" mushrooms, accompanied by generally excellent photos and distribution maps (plus one shot of a dominant herbivore cluster of millipedes munching an Ganoderma tsugae in the 'edible' mushroom chapter) precede observations on some little known roles and interactions of fungi, such as the truffle-tree-animal triumvirate, sand ecosystems, and nitrogen-seeking Hebeloma, Laccaria, and Onygena 'corpse finders'. Appropriately enough, next on the menu are toxins, symptoms, and good to somewhat blurry portraits of and maps for the region's 15 poisonous mushroom species. Found here is Inocybe calamistrata (a mushroom I'd never thought of consuming, but its blue pigmented 'foot' might attract those vainly hoping for a hallucinogenic high). Also portrayed is a mushroom labeled as Clitocybe (now the type species of Ampulloclitocybe) clavipes looking far too slender, small, white, and suspiciously far more like Clitocybe fragrans, another known poisonous mushroom. This is one book that stresses the deadly poisonous Amanita franchetii [now more correctly called Amanita augusta - see Bojantchev & Davis 2013] an otherwise beautiful mushroom common throughout Haida Gwaii.
Moving from the deadly poisonous to the strictly hallucinogenic, the next chapter focuses on two "main candidates" for "visionary mushrooms traditionally used as ritual or spiritual intoxicants in Haida Gwaii:" the liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata, probably introduced by immigrant farmers) and the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria, an abundant endemic). Six pages are devoted to the modern natural and legal history surrounding these "magic" mushrooms. The atlas comprises 139 photos (of variable quality) covering 105 species, including a salal leaf infected by Valdensia heterodoxa (which escaped the clutches of the final checklist, although not the index). As this volume is not intended to serve as an identification guide, these photos merely whet the appetite for further information, and the atlas concludes with a list of recommended guides and references.
The authors next summarize the scope of their prodigious five-year inventory efforts: "Over the five years, we made eight field trips to Haida Gwaii of ten to fourteen days. In all, 113 areas were visited ... and we made and preserved 2906 collections representing 635 species and documented 812 species of fungi (not including lichens) from all available sources... We collected on nineteen islands ranging in size of 0.5 hectares to the over 648,000 hectares of Graham Island. The mushrooms ... remained largely unknown until 2003, when we began our survey." The general bibliography precedes six wonderful photos showing the authors (and Oluna's photographer and botanist husband Adolf) in the field.
The final index and acknowledgments follow a 23-page checklist of the 635 species identified thus far from the surveys. Having participated in several longterm fungal surveys (see Norvell & Exeter 2003), I understand all too well how much work was involved in identifying the collections after all the fieldwork was completed. To that end, I do wish the authors had provided a bit more detail on which references they used to identify their finds. In his 2013 book review, Steve Trudell suggested that in the absence of the usual identification caveats (e.g., cf., aff., sensu lato) the identifications should be "taken with a grain of mycological salt." He recently amended this (Trudell 2017) by adding that although the authors had originally included such identification disclaimers, the publisher unfortunately removed them from the published checklist.
Misidentifications or misapplications are to be expected, although the authors' strengths in certain genera (e.g., dark-spored saprobes for Paul, Inocybe for Oluna, and Russula for Christine) lend more credibility to the checklist. All of us who have conducted similar studies know full well that the real work of identification will continue years after the fieldwork is complete and will applaud the authors for having the courage to publish their results (however preliminary they might be) so promptly and in so engaging a format.
For the most part there are relatively few typographical or spelling errors the few I noted were 'Beauvaria' for Beauveria, 'Scerotinia' for Sclerotinia, and '_prescottii_' for prescotii and the nomenclature is more or less up-todate for 2012. I counted three synonym doublets: Bondarzewia mesenterica + B. montana, Cystolepiota sistrata + Lepiota seminude, and Galerina autumnalis_+ G. venenata (the last two synonyms of G. marginata). Oddly, while_'Lichenomphalia' is shown on p. 9, only Omphalina ericetorum (accepted as L. umbellifera after a 25-year nomenclatural battle of epic proportions) appears on the list. Other nomenclatural holdovers include Boletus (instead of Chalciporus) piperatus, Clitocybe (instead of Arrhenia) hohensis, Coprinus (instead of Coprinopsis) atramentarius, lagopus & phaeosporus, Gomphus (instead of Turbinellus) kauffmanii, Mycena (instead of Roridomyces) rorida, Omphalina viridis (instead of Arrhenia chlorocyanea), Paxillus (instead of_Tapinella) panuoides, Phlogiotis (instead of Guepinia) tremelloides, and Rozites (instead of Cortinarius) caperata. Fortunately, as all names can easily be updated using Index Fungorum, these discrepancies are hardly serious.
All in all, I find The Outer Spores: Mushrooms of the Haida Gwaii eminently readable, enchanting, and educational and recommend it as an excellent inspiration and guide for other surveys of hitherto untrammeled wildernesses.
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