Brambles, blackberries, jam and jargon

Bramble Jam - botanists sorting the collection during the reorganisation.
Bramble Jam - botanists sorting the collection during the reorganisation.
Bramble specimens laid out along the length of the Main Hall of the National Museum, Cardiff.
Bramble specimens laid out along the length of the Main Hall of the National Museum, Cardiff.

The bramble collection held at Amgueddfa Cymru is recognised as a major scientific reference tool for the study and naming of plants worldwide.

The Bramble and Blackberry or Rubus collection held in the Museum herbarium is one of the major British reference collections for naming plants. The collection holds 15,000 specimens and includes all of the 325 species known from Britain and Ireland. As the classification of brambles is being revised continuously, the management, conservation and continued use of the collection is of utmost importance.

Brambles are a particularly difficult group of plants to identify as there are often only small differences between each species and bushes of different species often grow tangled together, making the gathering of individual species very difficult. Due to the sheer number of species of bramble in Britain, many specimens in the collection remain unnamed.

When a new species is discovered, the specimen that is used to identify the species in which it belongs is known as a type specimen. Type specimens are vitally important for solving identification problems and the Museum collection contains type specimens of at least 100 species.

There is also a significant historical aspect to the collection as it contains the personal collections of several important collectors from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

European specimens are also of value and through these it has been discovered that a number of French and German bramble species have remained undetected in the British Isles until very recently. It is hoped that the European specimens could be of future use linking some as yet unnamed specimens in the herbarium to continental species.

Article Date: 12 June 2007

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