NEWS - Clarence's pressed flowers and his legacy

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

 

Helen Blanc-Francard writes...
    I found this 2011 document on the web the other day concerning a study of herbaria:  www.museum-aix-en-provence.org/Herbiers_PACA.pdf. I've just re-read it and find it very interesting on several counts.
    Firstly, it puts CB's plant hunting work into a historical context by cataloging the data left by the surprisingly large number of trained botanists and passionate amateurs who over the centuries, often without the benefit of collaboration, assiduously studied and recorded the extraordinarily diverse Alpes Maritime region.  (CB does get a brief mention but I reckon that he passed below the radar screen of this particular study because the main body of his work is conserved outside France).
    Secondly, whilst acknowledging that the individual contributions are important for scientific study by bearing witness to the world's rapidly degenerating environmental conditions and for their potential in the development of future landscape conservation practices, it also flags up the fact that many of the now fragile and dispersed herbarium specimens (dried flowers) are themselves at risk of being lost for posterity in a cash-strapped France where governmental institutions are unable to provide funding for the construction of special storage facilities nor for engaging skilled technicians and conservation staff.
    As part of Europe's heritage of hardy, independent and passionate explorers, all the more reason then to ensure that CB is positioned firmly on the map for his contribution to botanical (and of course archaeological) knowledge. As a man concerned about communication, one could even hope that all his efforts, his records, illustrations and precious specimens, will be accessible for conservation focussed research and for greater public awareness of this pressing issue. This would really be a fitting legacy for a man of conviction. 
Helen Blanc-Francard is a journalist, researcher, writer and garden expert living near Paris.
She was elected to the committee of the Clarence Bicknell Association in May 2014.

 See also the June 2014 report from Graham Avery on Clarence Bicknell's pressed flowersin the Oxford University Herbarium   here