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Grasses and Sedges of Britain and Ireland - COMPLETED 2009

Updating two handbooks of the Botanical Society of the British Isles
Bromus commutatus Schrad. Photo: T. Cope

The Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI) publishes a series of authoritative handbooks on selected families within the British and Irish floras.  This project, a collaboration between Kew and several British botanists. resulted in the publication of a new handbook on grasses, together with the third edition of the one on sedges, Kew and several other British botanists.

The need for a new guide to British and Irish grasses to replace that of C.E. Hubbard, which was in print for 50 years and went to three editions, was first recognised in the mid-1980s, a few years after the death of Hubbard. The work to produce the new Handbook dealt with 220 species, 173 native and established alien species and 47 casuals of regular occurrence.  Every species was re-worked from the vast collections amassed by Hubbard at Kew and its taxonomy reconsidered.  Comprehensive notes on ecology and distribution, along with guidance on how to recognise the species in the field were compiled and new plates to illustrate every species were made.

Sedges of the British Isles was the first handbook in the BSBI series and was published in 1968, with a second edition appearing in 1982. However, both editions only covered the genus Carex.  In the mid-1990s a third edition was proposed to deal with all taxa of Cyperaceae present in Britain and Ireland, including hybrids. The new edition, therefore, included 106 species (33 in genera other than Carex) and 47 hybrids, with descriptions, illustrations, distribution mapping, and ecological information for all the taxa. Conservation assessments were also made for taxa under threat and included in the handbook.

  • Jermy, A.C., Simpson, D.A., Foley, M.J.Y. & Porter, M. (2007). Sedges of the British Isles. BSBI Handbook no 1. Edition 3. Botanical Society of the British Isles.
  • Cope, T. & Gray, A. (2009). Grasses of the British Isles. BSBI Handbook no 13. Botanical Society of the British Isles.

Project partners and collaborators

Natural History Museum
University of Lancaster

Project Department