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Natural History

March 2015

Amazonian fieldwork

Posted by Adrian Plant on 27 March 2015

Josenir Camara & Adrian Plant in the lab at INPA

I’m now in the enigmatic central Amazonian city of Manaus (of World Cup fame) situated where the white waters of the Rio Solimões converge with the inky black Rio Negro to form the Amazon proper. This is my third visit as part of a project in collaboration with my colleague José Albertino Rafael at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA) and our PhD student Josenir Câmara. Our Project is describing the diversity of a particular group of flies in the Amazon using classical taxonomic approaches and relating it to Global evolutionary and biogeographic patterns using, for example, emerging molecular-genetic methodology. In order to do this we first have had to travel to remote areas of the Amazon, collecting flies to be brought back to the labs in Manaus and Cardiff - where the hard work really starts.

On previous visits we have surveyed remote areas on the Rio Negro close to Venezuela, way up the Solimões along the Colombian and Peruvian borders as well as downstream in Amapa State between the mouth of the great river and French Guiana. During this visit we intend to leave the Brazilian Amazon behind and explore fly diversity in some of the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin in Ecuador. We are all keyed up and excited by the imminent prospect of getting out into the forest again and trying to anticipate some of the discoveries we might make.

Of course, we cannot really know exactly what we are going to find but our past experiences suggest that much of what we discover will be completely new. That is one of the great delights of being an entomologist in the tropics as the diversity of insects is so vast and our knowledge so sparse that exciting discoveries are virtually inevitable. You would have to walk around the Amazon with your eyes and mind closed not to find something totally and often bewilderingly novel!  But for the time being we must contain our excitement as we spend our time sorting the field equipment we will take with us, pouring over maps and satellite imagery and speculating about finds we might make. I can’t wait for our flight to Quito!

Solar eclipse 2015

Posted by Jana Horak on 26 March 2015

Crowds gathering outside the museum

Making sure we all wear our safety glasses!

Using binoculars to project the image on to a pillar

Using a solar telescope

The days before Friday 20th March, had staff in the Department of Natural Sciences watching the weather forecast with great attention.  Friday 20th March 2015 was a really special day as we had the opportunity in Cardiff, weather permitting, to see a partial eclipse of the Sun. This does not happen very often, the next one won’t be until 12th August 2026. 

On the Thursday we had a great start to the celebration by hosting an evening of talks on eclipses at the Museum. These were given by Dr Chris North, Dr Rhodri Evans, Dr Mark Hannam, astronomers and physicists from Cardiff University; and we all felt much better informed as to what we knew about the sun, why an eclipse was occurring, and what eclipses tell us about gravity. Equally important was a talk by Jenni Millard, an undergraduate student but experienced astronomer, on how to view the sun safely. Having listened intently the audience were issued with free solar eclipse viewing glasses.

Friday morning and we were in luck, a perfect sunny morning and all that worry about the weather had paid off!  By 8.00 a few people had already arrived outside the Museum, by 8.20 there were many more. At 8.22 we saw the first contact of the eclipse. For a short while the sun was almost obscured by the trees in the Gorsedd Gardens, but not for long. With colleagues from Cardiff University and the Institute of Physics we provided a range of methods to view the eclipse safely. These included a solar telescope that provided the greatest detail of the sun’s surface, pinhole viewers, ranging from boxes and tubes to simple card and paper, solar viewing boxes, colanders and eclipse glasses. Most visitors had noted the warnings about safe eye protection, only a few needed reminding that two pairs of sunglasses wouldn’t do the job!

Over the 126 minutes of the eclipse from first contact of the moon until we saw the entire sun once again, over 1000 people viewed the eclipse on the Museum steps with the viewing glasses provided. In total we estimate that over this period nearly 2000 people joined the event. At one point the queue disappeared round the corner of the Museum into Park Place almost to the University! However this was a great event with a fantastic atmosphere of participation and patient queuing.

For more astronomy linked events please see Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales What’s On pages, next one is on 18th April, and for education resources check out the Museum’s partnership Down2Earth Project web site

For more information on our Eclipse 2015 activities see our Storify Story.

I Spy…Nature out and about

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 24 March 2015

Viewing lichens with OPAL community scientist

I Spy...Nature workshops at Cogan Primary School

I Spy...Nature workshops at National Museum Cardiff on fossils

Exploring our 3D rocky shore model

Last year Staff from the Departments of Natural Sciences, and Learning, Participation and Interpretation took their I Spy…Nature themed pop-up museum out into the community. This year we have been delivering I Spy…Nature related workshops throughout March as part of the I Spy…Nature Exhibition outreach programme. Workshops at National Museum Cardiff allowed members of the public to carry out fieldwork within the museum, bringing the outside in! Visitors were able to explore the miniature world of British Slugs and Snails, go pond dipping, explore a rocky shore (utilising our brand new portable 3D Rocky shore) and go worm charming with our OPAL Community Science officer. During the middle part of March, staff ran a series of school workshops both at National Museum Cardiff and within a local primary school, where pupils could explore the seafloor, Fossils and Minerals before trying their hand at scientific illustration with a local artist.  The aim of these sessions was to inspire children to explore their natural environment and also to give them a chance to experience the work that museum scientists do. For British Science and Engineering Week, staff held an I Spy…Nature Open day in the main Hall at National Museum Cardiff, with a plethora of specimens from our collections and even a giant lobster, fly and squirrel!

 For more information on the I Spy…Nature activities see our Storify Story.

Seaweeds in Northumberland

Posted by Katherine Slade on 5 March 2015

Collecting Laver (Porphyra species), making sure the holdfast is collected for identification purposes

Some of the seaweeds recorded and collected from the lower shore

Reproductive features of Winged Weed (Membranoptera alata) recorded down the microscope

A pressed specimen of Stalked Leaf Bearer (Phyllophora pseudoceranoides)

On 19th February, I joined science curator Kate Mortimer-Jones to study marine life on the shores around Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, not far from the border with Scotland. While Kate hunted for magalonid marine bristleworms, I looked at seaweeds. Much of England’s east coast is not particularly suitable for seaweeds; however, the rocky shores around Northumberland form plenty of ideal habitats.

It was early in the year, so I wasn’t expecting to see the seaweeds that die down for the winter (similar to annual and perennial flowering plants). I was also expecting a lower diversity here when compared with Welsh shores due to the colder climate. Species with south-western distributions that prefer a relatively warmer climate, such as Brown Tuning Fork Weed (Bifurcaria bifurcata), relatively common in Wales, do not grow as far north and east as Northumberland. With climate change, however, there is always the possibility that these southern species may expand their range further north. This is more likely for non-native species that are in the process of establishing in the UK, so I was on the look-out.

There are some seaweeds that only grow in the north of the UK, such as the Northern Tooth Weed (Odonthalia dentata) which is absent from Wales. I wanted to become familiar with these in the field rather than just seeing them as pressed specimens in our collections. It’s always exciting to find a species for the first time in the wild too.

Despite the time of year and the north-eastern location, the very sheltered shore was an excellent one for seaweeds and I documented a wide range of species. While it was important to collect specimens as a permanent back-up for records and for future research, I had to remind myself not to collect too many as they take a long time to process and I didn’t want to be up until the ‘wee hours’.

Preservation of the seaweeds involves several techniques depending on future use. To preserve the seaweed’s DNA for molecular analysis, the seaweed needs to be dried as quickly as possible in a bag with silica gel. Combining DNA characters with morphological ones (such as shape and colour) is sometimes the only way to be sure of an identification. To preserve 3D structure and some microscopic details well, a sample is placed in a tube with formaldehyde for fixation. Finally, the traditional and still most effective method for overall preservation is to press and dry the specimen, unfortunately this is the most time consuming process. You float each seaweed out onto paper, place nappy liners on top (a crucial part to stop the seaweed sticking to the paper above it), then place a piece of blotting paper underneath and on top and put it into a plant press. At least once a day, I swapped the wet blotting paper for dry and made sure the wet paper dried out quickly enough to be used in the next cycle. A lengthy procedure, but worth it for excellently preserved specimens that will be invaluable for future research.

I had access to a microscope with a camera attached and so was able to take close-up images of the seaweeds while they were fresh. These will be useful when looking at dried specimens back in the museum. Characters such as colour and 3D structure can be altered in the drying process, but will show up well in these photos. I also took lots of photos with a waterproof camera (it is too terrifying to take a non-waterproof camera onto the shore!) and I will share some more of these in my next blog.

Curating Molluscs

Posted by Anna Holmes on 2 March 2015

Umberto Fiordaliso

Welcome to Umberto Fiordaliso, a postgraduate student from the University of Florence who will be working at the museum for 3 months with the Erasmus Programme, which helps students to study abroad. Umberto has previous experience working on Mediterranean molluscs and will be curating the marine molluscs collected by Monterosato, part of our extensive shell collection. He will be working closely with Anna Holmes and Harriet Wood in the Invertebrate Biodiversity section to produce a published handlist on this historical collection.

February 2015

First flower dates!

Posted by Penny Tomkins on 27 February 2015
Main parts of a flower (from the BBC Bitesize website).

Here is a fantastic and clearly labelled picture that was sent to me last year:

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I have exciting news to report! We have had our first flower dates recorded on the website!

Congratulations to Ysgol Deganwy, who’s first Crocus flowered an the 21st of February at 90mm tall. Ysgol Tal Y Bont and Ysgol Bancyfelin who’s first Crocus's flowered on the 23rd of February at 65mm tall. And, Ynysddu Primary School who’s first Crocus flowered on the 25th of February at 50mm tall. They expect two more to flower any day now!

I have also had reports of even earlier flowering dates. Swiss Valley CP School report that some of their Crocus plants flowered over half term.

Silverdale St. John's CE School have reported that some of the Crocuses they planted in tyres have flowered. One is 110mm tall!

And today, via Twitter I received photographic evidence that Llanharan Primary School has at least two fully grown Crocus plants! They saw one of them open today!

Remember to enter your flower date and the height of your flower on the National Museum Wales website. But, only do this once the petals are fully visible and remember to measure the height in millimetres.

I would love some photos of the flowers for the Museum’s website and my Twitter page. Please ask your teachers to send these in to me if possible.

I would also like to see just how artistic you all are! So, I have an activity for you to do once your flowers have opened! I’d like you to draw a detailed picture of your plant and label all its different parts. This is a great way to get to know your flowers better, and to see just how complicated such small things can be. It’s also very interesting to compare the Daffodil and the Crocus, can you spot the similarities and differences? In many ways all flowers are very similar, even though at first glance they look completely different to one another!

Here is a fun game to do with labelling plants that I found on the BBC Bitesize website:

I look forward to seeing your photos and pictures.

Keep up the good work Bulb buddies,

Professor Plant

Your comments:

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: We had snow on Tuesday! Bitter cold all week. Prof P: Wow Stanford in the Vale Primary, you have had cold weather! -2 on Tuesday – burrr!

Rivington Foundation Primary School: Our daffodils in pots started sprouting last week, now between 1 and 4 cms. Daffodils in pots no sign yet. Probably too cold in the ground. Professor Plant: Hi Rivington Foundation Primary, I’m glad to hear your bulbs are sprouting! It is exciting to see how fast they grow once they start to show above the soil. Usually, the plants in the ground would grow first because they are slightly warmer than your plants in pots. But this depends on a number of things, such as how much frost you have had! I’m sure they will show themselves soon, maybe they are waiting for it to get a little warmer!


Chryston Primary School: Sorry but we were off for 3 days and sadly a bulb got squished because it is near the playground and a ball landed of top of it. The good news is the bulbs are starting to grow. Next week we will start recording the height of the bulbs. Prof P: Oh I am sorry to hear that you lost one of your bulbs! I hope you are all sharing so that no one is too upset – these things do happen! I’m glad to hear that your bulbs have started growing though! It’s interesting to document how quickly they grow, and to see that each one grows at its own pace!

Saint Anthony's Primary School: We are enjoying taking the measurements and are delighted at how well our bulbs are progressing. Prof P: Hi Saint Anthony’s Primary, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the project. I very much enjoy studying all the weather records that are sent in. And I especially like receiving lovely comments that show me others enjoy this project as much as I do! Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies.

Glyncollen Primary School: We have had good fun so far doing spring bulbs investigation! Prof P: I’m glad you are enjoying the project Bulb Buddies! There are lots more experiments and investigations you can do if you are enjoying this one, why not have a look at the MET Office website for idea! 


Saint Anthony's Primary School: We have noticed that the temperatures have recently been rising and falling. Prof P: Hi Saint Anthony’s Primary, I’m glad to hear that you are studying and comparing your weather records. You have had a bit of a jump, from -2 on Wednesday to 11 on Thursday! Differences like this can result from taking readings at different times of day, as the temperature will be consistently lower in the morning than in the afternoon! This is why it’s important to always try to take the readings at around the same time. However, this can also result from changes in the weather. I’m guessing it was a lot sunnier and less cloudy on Thursday compared to the rest of the week!

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: We hope our bulbs flower soon. We enjoyed planting them. Prof P: I’m sure it won’t be long now Our Lady of Peace Primary! One of my Crocus plants is nearly big enough, but it will be a while yet before my other plants flower! Isn’t it interesting to see that all of our plants are developing differently even though we planted them on the same day!


Keir Hardie Memorial Primary School: We have started to see that our bulbs are starting to grow. Some of our bulbs during the extremely windy weather blew over and were nearly out of the plant box and plant pot. However, we have seen some growth in a number of our plant pots and are hoping they will grow further. For the other ones that had blew over, we replanted them just in case there is any hope. This was a few weeks ago so hopefully we will see some change. Prof P: Hi Keir Hardie Memorial Primary, you did the right thing by re-planting your bulbs. I have my fingers crossed that they will still grow for you! I’m glad to hear that some of your plants have started to grow and that you are monitoring them so closely. Keep up the good work!

Glyncollen Primary School: We have had a broken thermometer on Monday and Tuesday. Professor Plant: Hi Glyncollen Primary. I’m sorry that your thermometer wasn’t working. But I’m glad to see that you fixed it or got a new one, and that you still took your rain fall readings. Good work!  

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: Nearly all our bulbs have shoots now the weather is a bit warmer and the mystery bulbs have buds so it looks like we may have some flowers soon. E and O. Prof P: Ooo this is exciting! Once your mystery bulbs have flowered let me know what type of plant you think they might be! Keep up the god work!

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Another strange week with the weather....high winds, cold and heavy rain, then beautiful sunshine! Our plants in the ground look as if they could be showing signs of opening.....but the one in pots seem rather behind....so we are on constant watch! Kind Regards, Gardening Club. Prof P: Hi Stanford in the Vale Primary Gardening Club! I’m glad to hear that your plants are doing well, and that you are comparing the growth of the plants in the ground to the plants in pots. It’s very interesting that these are developing differently, can you think of reasons why this might be?

Glyncollen Primary School: Some of our spring bulbs are starting to grow and our crocus! Prof P: That’s good news Glyncollen Primary, keep a close eye on them now because they’ll grow quickly!

Worms that Dig

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 24 February 2015

Collecting shovelhead worms, Berwick-upon-Tweed

The worms are gently removed from the sand using a water bottle and soft forceps

Shovelhead worms are generally less than 1 mm wide and can be difficult to find on the beach

Shovelhead worms in the sand, they have to be removed very gently as they are so fragile

» View full post to see all images

Our trip to collect shovelhead worms (a type of marine bristleworm called a magelonid) at Berwick-upon-Tweed started last Thursday (19th) at 06.30, giving us plenty of time on the shore before low tide. We were extremely lucky with the weather, as although it was only 7 degrees, the sun was out and it wasn’t raining. Staff at the museum specialize in this fascinating group and this particular trip was aimed at collecting animals to further our understanding of the biology of the group but also to gain specimens for the Museum’s natural history collections. Magelonids are extremely abundant on this shore and material used in the description of the British species, Magelona johnstoni was collected here by Head of Invertebrate Biodiversity Andy Mackie, who was one of the team who described the species back in 2000. The species was given its name in honour of the work carried out by the naturalist Dr George Johnston in this region.

Although, abundant on this shore, finding and collecting animals which are less than 1 mm in width can be tricky! These animals are rather long and fragile and a great deal of care has to be taken when collecting them. Animals are gently removed from the sand using a water bottle and soft forceps and placed into a cool box to keep them cool on the journey home. Once back to our makeshift laboratory I was able to identify and observe them for our research. We have designed a specialist tank in order to observe them over longer periods of time as well. We have successfully kept animals in this tank for nearly two years. We are hoping to observe the difference between three species, which can be found on this shore, Magelona johnstoni, Magelona mirabilis and Magelona filiformis. A fourth species is known to occur in low numbers on this shore, however, we were unable to locate any specimens for study this time.

We spent four days on the shore at Berwick-upon-Tweed collecting animals and although the weather did turn and temperatures on the beach dipped significantly it is a lovely shore to collect on. The tank and the animals have now made the long trip back to Cardiff and are now in the marine laboratory at National Museum Cardiff. We will continue to observe and publish research on these fascinating and also beautiful creatures (although may be I am somewhat biased, I shall leave it up to you whether you agree or not!).

Watch this video, to see how we sample shovelhead worms.

Northumberland’s Sea Life

Posted by Katie Mortimer-Jones on 24 February 2015

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Sampling for shovelhead worms (Magelona), Berwick-upon-Tweed

The Marine Section at National Museum Cardiff have studied the shores around Berwick-upon-Tweed for several years now, concentrating on the marine bristleworms living in the muddy sand and the rocky outcrops of this beautiful beach. This is an historic beach for these fascinating creatures as several species were first described from this locality by Dr George Johnston (1797 – 1855), a Scottish physician and naturalist who studied the fauna and flora of the area. One of the most abundant types of bristleworms found there are shovelhead worms, beautiful creatures that use their flattened heads to dig in the sand and feed using two long feeding tentacles. Staff at the museum specialize in this group and hence Berwick-upon-Tweed is an important site for their research. Hence, I “set sail” to the shores of Northumberland again to collect more samples both for our research and the museum’s natural history collections. One of our current focuses is to understand how these animals feed, breed, burrow and behave and our latest findings have recently been published in the proceedings of the 11th International Polychaete Conference.

On this trip, I was joined by fellow science curator Kath Slade from the Botany section, who specializes in seaweeds. This allows us to look more holistically at the shore’s ecology, by looking at both the flora and fauna.

We will keep you posted with updates about what we have discovered.

A Year at St Fagans Gardens

Posted by Sally Anne Lickley on 23 February 2015
A Lime tree before pollarding

A Lime tree before pollarding

HHSS trainee Sally pollarding a lime tree

HHSS Trainee Sally pollarding a Lime tree

A person in silhouette in a tree with the sun in the background

Pollarding a Lime tree

Trainees Sally and Nico Hard pruning a Yew hedge

Sally and Nico hard pruning Yew  hedges

» View full post to see all images

A Year at St Fagans Gardens.

A Robin sitting on top of a hard pruned Yew hedge

Robin on a Yew hedge

Ever wondered what gardener’s do at winter?

Hello and sut mae. This is my first blog entry and it’s my story about being a trainee gardener and Welsh learner at St Fagans Museum over the course of 14 months. I’d better start by telling you a bit about myself. I arrived on the Heritage Horticulture Skills Scheme (HHSS) last September and I’ll be blogging about what I get up to until I finish the course in November.

Before I became involved in the scheme I was a self-employed ‘maintenance’ gardener for several years in Cardiff. My technical knowledge was limited and I was really looking to learn new skills through practical experience. I also wanted to expand my knowledge of plants and horticulture techniques. In the past I’d tried doing this through books and YouTube videos, but I soon realised that what I really needed was some kind of gardening guru to guide me. When I heard about the HHSS scheme I got very excited and knew it would be perfect for me as it was an opportunity to learn a huge amount in a practical hands-on way, with guidance from experts in the field.

So, here we are in mid-Feb and I can’t believe I’ve been on the scheme for just over 5 months already. It’s been incredibly busy and I haven’t had much time to stop and think. The months have flown by. In this post I’ll be talking about what I and the other trainees have been doing over winter. Lots of people think that winter is a quiet time without much going on in the garden. A time to tidy up the shed, clean your tools, and think about your summer planting scheme. Don’t believe that for a second. Trust me, there’s plenty to do!

During the winter months the daylight hours are shorter and weather conditions can be harsh at times, but in a place like St Fagans the gardens are so varied there’s always a job that you can get on with. There are lots of plants that benefit from pruning at this time of year including fruit trees and bushes, late flowering shrubs, roses and some climbers. In the past few weeks we’ve tackled a few of these, and used different techniques to suit the individual needs of the plants.

Why prune at this time of year?

In winter, deciduous plants shed their leaves and that makes it much easier to see its general structure. There is also less chance of transmitting diseases from one plant to another or attracting insects to fresh pruning wounds. Sap producing plants will bleed heavily if you prune when the sap is rising. Many of these are dormant over winter and bleeding is not so much of a problem if you prune at this time of year. As you may have already gathered, this post is going to focus on winter pruning techniques.

The first thing to remember when pruning any plant is the 4 D’s. Always remove Dead, Diseased and Damaged or Displaced material, in that order!

There are 4 main types of pruning.

·         Formative pruning encourages growth and builds the basic framework in a young plant.

·         Maintenance pruning improves the look of the plant as well as increasing the amount of fruit or flowers.

·         Regenerative pruning – If you have a plant that’s been left to itself and grown out of control for a few years, there’s no need to panic. Certain plants can be restored. This type of pruning can help you manage the growth, size and the overall look. It’s often an intimidating prospect. But, if you have an idea about what you’re doing and you feel brave, it can give your old plants a new lease of life. And save you throwing them out, when all they need is a good prune.

·         Specialised pruning creates and maintains an attractive look. If you’ve always wanted a hedge in the shape of an elephant, then Topiary is a form of specialised pruning that might be right up your street.

Now that you know the basic rules, I’ll talk a little bit more in depth about what we’ve been doing recently.

Pollarding Lime (Tilia) trees

It’s best to Pollard Lime trees annually in late winter or early spring if you want to restrict height. Prune the new shoots back to a bud, 1-2cm from the pollarded head. This will also stimulate new shoot production for the following spring.

Wisteria

Wisteria can grow 10-12ft in a season, it’s a beast, and benefits from pruning twice annually in summer and winter. At this time of year we prune the lateral growth back to 2 or 3 buds on each spur shoot. These spurs will bear the following season’s majestic display of flowers.

Standard Apple Trees

Apple trees are pruned to manage fruit buds and the shoots they grow on. Not, as many people think, to control the size of the tree. Start by concentrating on one main branch at a time. Find the leader and work your way down to the main trunk. Cut the leader by a third, leaving a bud facing the direction you want the new growth to follow. Prune back any laterals to 2-3 buds. Thin out large groups of spurs because too many will produce small fruits and it’s much better to have less quantity, but bigger and better quality.

Hard Pruning Yew (Taxus baccata) Hedges

We decided to prune back hard the Yew hedges down by the ponds because they had grown too wide, and in places the height was obscuring the pretty spectacular view. Yew responds well to renovation pruning, but it’s best carried out staggered over a few years. This year we concentrated on one side and the top. We used string lines tied to bamboo canes to mark out a straight cutting guide. We cut back hard using loppers and secateurs to reduce the height and width, and to re-shape where needed. After hard pruning it’s always good idea to apply feed and mulch at the base to give the plant a bit of extra nutrition and TLC while it recovers.

Rose Pruning

A few of the other HHSS trainees from other gardens on the scheme joined us just last week for a Rose pruning workshop led by St Fagans gardener Julie. Our task was to give the Roses a light annual prune. Different Roses respond better to different styles of pruning. We were each given a specific Rose bed, a map, and a list of the Roses with their pruning preferences. I was working with ‘Gruss an Teplitz’, which are a beautiful and fragrant old Hybrid Tea which prefer to be pruned thin. The first move was to remove any dead, diseased and damaged or displaced material. The 4 D’s! Next I thinned out the centre to produce a well-balanced open shape, and removed any crossing stems to stop them from rubbing against and damaging each other. I removed some of the very old, less productive wood to encourage new growth from the base. Always remember to prune to just above an outward facing bud, and make sure the cut slopes away from this to shed water.

Your questions, my answers

Posted by Penny Tomkins on 4 February 2015

Thank you bulb buddies from Professor Plant and baby bulb!

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I would like to share a humorous rhyme from R at Thorn Primary School: "If I was a dog and you were a flower I’d lift my leg and give you a shower!"

Thorn Primary School: What happens to the plants after they have flowered? Do they die? Prof P: Hi Thorn Primary School. This is a very important question. Your bulbs won’t die after they have flowered! The leaves of your plant make food and the roots absorb water. When your flower dies the bulb stores all remaining food and water inside itself ready for next Autumn. Your teacher has information on how to care for your bulbs after your flowers die, and I will blog about it closer to the time. But this won’t happen until the end of Spring – so enjoy your flowers while they are here!

Skelmorlie Primary School: This week we have had a lot of snow and sleet in our weather. It has been really cold so we have had to look out for ice when we are playing too. In our water gauge this week, there was around 13 mm of water and 37 mm of ice/snow. Prof P: Hi Skelmorlie Primary School. I’m glad to hear you are being careful when you are outside, the weather can cause dangerous conditions! I’m assuming you melted the 37mm of snow to 13mm of water. Was there less water than you thought there would be? This is because water expands when it freezes and evaporates when it heats! I’d like to thank you for all the weekly comments you have sent me – you are definitely Super Scientists!

St. Ignatius Primary School: Professor Plant we missed some recordings this week due to the bad weather here. Our teacher decided it was not safe enough for us to go out and collect the recordings. Today we had a big piece of ice in our rainfall gauge so if that melted our rainfall would be more. The raifall gauge was also this full as it includes the 3 days we didn't take recordings. St. Ignatius Primary 4. Prof P: Hello St Ignatius Primary 4. Not to worry about missing some recordings due to bad weather – if it’s icy it’s better to stay warm and safe! As for the block of ice, you are not the only school to have had this problem. If this happens again please take your rain gauge inside and wait for the ice to melt. Then record the water level as rain fall on your weather chart!

Morningside Primary School: We brought our rain gauge in on Monday as it was full of snow and let it melt before we took the measurement. Prof P: Well done Morningside Primary School, you really are Super Scientists! I hope you enjoyed the experiment. I always try to guess how much water there will be when the ice melts!  Other schools have had the chance to do this experiment too, including Corshill Primary School.

Chryston Primary School: We are terribly sorry that we could not finish our records last week. We have been very busy with our Scottish afternoon and the weather here has been horrible. Hopefully we will finish our records next week. Prof P: Not to worry Chryston Primary School. Scottish afternoon sounds exciting! I hope you had a good week!

Thorn Primary School: We had lots of snow this week as well as lots of ice! We have no recording for Thursday as our school was closed due to the ice making it unsafe for staff and children to arrive. Prof P: Not to worry Thorn Primary School, other schools were unable to complete their records due to bad weather too! And lots of schools have reported snow, including: Woodlands Primary School, St. Brigid's School, Ysgol Hiraddug, Abbey Primary School, Manor Road Primary School, Rivington Foundation Primary School, Bickerstaffe CE Primary School and Balshaw Lane Community Primary School.

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: It has been very windy,snowy and icy. Two girls fell today at playtime and lunchtime on the ice and hurt themselves. It snowed last Tuesday and Wednesday. The two girl that fell are the girls that wrote this. Prof P: Hello, I’m sorry to hear you fell on the ice! I hope you weren’t badly hurt! I hope children at other schools take note and that everyone is extra careful when outdoors in this weather!

Ysgol Y Plas: Dear professor plant I thought you would like to know that nineteen bulbs in the flower bed have been growing and sixteen in the pots have started as well. From C. Prof P: Hi C, that’s great news! Other schools have reported new shoots too, including Skelmorlie Primary School!

Tongwynlais Primary School: We have no rain records for monday and tuesday as a few of our fellow pupils have been playing with our rain gage. We hope we can collect more accurate measurements next week. Prof P: Thank you for letting me know TongwynlaisPrimary School. Other schools have been having problems with their rain gauges too. Including Euxton Church of England Primary School whose rain gauge has been repeatedly knocked over by football players! They have found a new location for their rain gauge now.

Darran Park Primary: I have got a new friend doing this job now - he enjoys doing it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prof P: Haha, well I’m guessing that not everyone at Darran Park Primary is enjoying this project! I hope your new friend can show you how much fun science can be and that you come to enjoy the project as much as he does!

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: It has been really icy in the mornings but the daffodil shoots are getting taller. F. Prof P: Good to know F. You must be looking after them very well!

Bancyfelin: 1 mm of snow fell on Thursday 29th of January. This means that 4mm of rain + 1mm of snow fell on this day. Prof P: Well done Bancyfelin. I assume you measured the snow using snow sticks? I see you recorded 4mm of rain, so I assume the snow melted in your rain gauge!

Baird Memorial Primary School: We are surprised by the changes that occurred within the temperature side of things. The changes were dramatic. Prof P: Hi Baird Memorial Primary School. You are right, there is quite a jump in your temperature readings from -1°c on Thursday to 11°c on Friday! This shows how temperamental the weather can be. Drops in temperature are often caused by cold winds, clouds and precipitation (rain and snow).

Ysgol Nant Y Coed: We enjoyed doing we like doing it very much its so FUN!!!! This is are last time doing it :(wahhhhhhhh we wish we could do it again-S and A. Prof P: Hi S & A! I’m glad you are enjoying the project and I hope you have learnt a lot! There are other scientific experiments you can take part in. I’m guessing its someone else’s turn to take the temperature and rain fall readings for this project now. But you could easily do a similar experiment at home! The MET Office have a Weather Observation Website (WOW) where they ask people to document temperature reading from their area. This information then helps Meteorologists to build a clearer picture of weather patterns across the UK. You can take part here: http://wow.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/manual .

Ysgol Clocaenog: Heddiw, rydym wedi gweld bod ein cennin pedr yn dechrau tyfu. Mae cennin pedr K wedi tyfu 1.5cm. Mae rhai ohonynt dal heb ddechrau eto. Athro'r Ardd: Wel, rwy'n falch o glywed bod eich Cennin Pedr wedi cychwyn tyfu. Mae'n swnio fel bod bwlb K yn tyfu yn gyflym iawn! Daliwch ati gyda'r gwaith da Ysgol Clocaenog!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!!

Professor Plant

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