The 1987 Taxonomic Workshop was held on the 7th-8th November at Manchester University. The twenty-six participants included amateur naturalists and professional botanists and came from a wide area of the country as far away as Essex and Cumbria. Our tutors were Dr Sean Edwards (who also organised the meeting) and Dr Harold Whitehouse, with additional valuable assistance from Dr Martha Newton.
On Saturday, Sean Edwards demonstrated, by means of photographs, his simple method of cutting sections of moss leaves using half a double-edged razor blade and two microscope slides to produce thin sections at the precise part of the leaf required. Then he talked to us about peristome structure and development, unveiling the mysteries of nematodontous and arthrodontous peristomes with the aid of his superb illustrations and slides. In the practical work which followed we were able to try our hand at cutting leaf sections which are valuable, and in some cases essential, for accurately naming Sphagnum, Polytrichum and Campylopus species. Some of us confessed to needing considerable practice to acquire the knack but are determined to persevere. We also practised displaying peristomes for examination including those of Atrichum, Polytrichum, Bryum, Funaria, Tortula, Dicranella and Splachnum.
At the end of the afternoon, Sean Edwards put on his Curator’s hat and took us on a tour of the Manchester Museum Herbarium. The Herbarium houses over three million specimens and is the largest in Britain outside the British Museum and Kew. We were then left at liberty to explore the Botany Gallery and the exhibition of Lindow Man.
Harold Whitehouse spent much of Saturday afternoon in the Herbarium searching for Leptobarbula with some success. On Sunday, he talked to us about tubers of arable field mosses and showed us beautiful photographs to demonstrate their structure and how they can be used to aid identification of small acrocarpous species. With his help and the use of his photographs, drawings, literature and permanent preparations which he made available, we were able to examine our own mosses for the presence of tubers with a good chance of successful identification. To many of us this opened up a new, fascinating aspect of bryology. Tubers were seen on Bryum rubens, B. micro-erythrocarpum, Leptobryum pyriforme and Ditrichum cylindricum. An interesting gall was seen on the rhizoids of Pottia truncata.
At the end of the afternoon, Martha Newton invited the participants to her room to see a demonstration of chromosome preparations.
The weekend also provided opportunities for us to gain expert help with our own mossy problems. Martha Newton gave an eager group a most useful verbal summary of field characters used in the identification of Sphagnum species.
On Saturday evening, nine of us were delighted to accept the invitation of Sean and Salosh Edwards to visit them at their home for drinks and snacks. A pleasant and entertaining evening was had by all. Our thanks are due to them them for their kindness especially as they are currently suffering an invasion by builders with all the attendant turmoil.
The Workshop was stimulating, helpful and friendly. We thank our tutors for giving their time and sharing their knowledge and expertise. We also thank Professor W.J. Ferguson (Dept. of Cell and Structural Biology) for making rooms and equipment available to us.