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Showing posts from April, 2013

Is there a role for plant-based medicine in our modern society?

What is the first image that comes to mind when you read the words “plant-based medicine”? This is the question James Wong presented the audience with last Thursday night at the 5th annual Annals of Botany Lecture held at the University of Bristol.
The audience, admittedly filled with plant aficionados, came up with answers such as aspirin and morphine. However, the same question posed during a university course that Wong teaches came up with some different imagery: dread locks and muddy boots, fads and big business, witch doctors in the Amazon, and cauldrons and concoctions. Imagery that suggests that plant-based medicine is a system of health care that is impractical, ineffective and therefore irrelevant. Given these cultural perceptions, is there still a role for plant-based medicine in an age where we are constructing nanoparticles and running quantum algorithms?
Wong spent well over an hour exploring this question with an audience of over 200 last week – dispelling many of the…

Weaving Ethel: How the Botanic Garden is bringing moas back to life

Last week I met Ethel. I’m not sure what image that name conjures up for you – perhaps it is the gutsy singer Ethel Merman or the eccentric EastEnders character Ethel Skinner. For me, I immediately think of Lucille Ball’s sidekick character Ethel Mertz in the old American sitcom I Love Lucy. It seems that Ethel is one of those names that summons a big personality, and the Botanic Garden’s Ethel is no exception. Of course, this might be due in part to her impressive stature at nearly 8 feet in height.
Ethel is a new willow sculpture currently under construction at the Botanic Garden. She is the first of two moa birds that will be on display among the native New Zealand plants in the garden. Despite her towering height, Ethel is going to be the smaller of the two birds, with the other giant expected to stand closer to 12 feet tall. The sculpture was named by her creator, Sally Meadows, who has been working two days a week on the ambitious project since February.
“Ethel had to be a female…

Seeds of Change volunteers get down and dirty

Last month Alex and Rhiannon wrote about the ballast seed collection at the Botanic Garden and hinted at a new project, called “Seeds of Change: Growing a Living History of Bristol”. The Seeds of Change project provides Bristol schools and community groups with an opportunity to grow ballast seed gardens of their own and link the plants that they grow to the maritime history that is integral to Bristol’s heritage.
The partners on this project, the University of Bristol’s Centre for Public Engagement, Botanic Garden, and Arnolfini have all been working hard on different aspects of the project to prepare for its launch, including developing creative workshops in partnership with artists and academics, building relationships with schools and community groups, sorting out the logistics of planting ballast seed gardens all over the city, and recruiting a troop of student volunteers to go out into the community and help build the gardens. The project is well underway and I recently joined…