On 25 March 1996 Paeonia turcica flowered at Kew for the first time some two weeks ahead of any other peony. This species is endemic to the Antalya Province of Turkey where it grows on a limestone soil in open Cedrus libani forest. It was first described in 1965 and is distinguished from its closest relative P. kesrouanensis by a shorter style and stigma. Kew's plants were raised from seed collected at 1820 m by Mark Flanagan and Mark Pitman during the 1990 Kew Expedition to Turkey. This is a valuable addition to the peony collection which is being developed to include all species and subspecies and will be displayed in a Peony Garden adjacent to the Order Beds. A study of the collection over the next few years will encourage strong links between horticulture and taxonomy. The Curator, Nigel Taylor, will oversee its verification and well documented additions are being sought.
Contact: Mike Sinnott (0181-332 5527)
African Copper Flowers
Herbarium collections are an important resource for evaluating geobotanical indicators of mineralisation. The tropical African 'copper flower' Haumaniastrum katangense is known to hyperaccumulate copper (>1000 ppm in dried tissues). The distribution of these plants has been used by exploration geo-botanists to delineate several mineralised areas in Zaire and Zambia. In a collaborative study with Prof. R R Brooks of Massey University, New Zealand, herbarium specimens of H. katangense, collected from throughout its geographical distribution, were analysed for copper hyperaccumulation. The reputation of H. katangense as a universal indicator of copper was not confirmed by the study as it showed the occurrence of several specimens over non-mineralised ground in Angola, Zambia and Tanzania. However, the species still has value as a geobotanical indicator of copper and cobalt in the Shaban copper arc of S Zaire.
Contact: Dr Alan Paton (0181-332 5295
New Gymnosperm Botanist
Aljos Farjon has been appointed as Kew's gymnosperm botanist. This permanent post in the Herbarium fills the need for a specialist to work and advise on this economically important and scientifically interesting group of non-flowering plants. Aljos arrived in Britain in 1993 from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands) at the invitation of Prof. Prance to write up the incomplete parts of the monograph "Pines of Central America and Mexico" which Dr. Brian T. Styles had previously worked on for 25 years prior to his sudden death in 1993. At Kew Aljos will continue taxonomic work on Cupressaceae and Pinaceae and undertake the curation of the herbarium and living collections of gymnosperms.
Contact: Aljos Farjon (0181-332 5402)