This year the workshop weekend, organised by Dennis Brown at the University of Bristol on the 19-20 November, could not be described as either a taxonomic or a field meeting. Instead, a dozen people enjoyed two days of discussions, demonstrations and hands-on experience of growing bryophytes.
Work started on Saturday morning with a visit to the University Botanic Gardens, by permission of Nick Wray. He made a brief appearance, only to discover most people forced by the rain into either hunting for cultivatable specimens in greenhouses or dilapidated cold frames, or recovering with a hot drink. A list of nearly 50 taxa was compiled. During a lull in the rain an inspection was made of some experimental herbicide-treatment plots, laid out on a Rhytidiadelphus-rich ‘lawn’ using thread ligature markers for apical growth measurements.
In the afternoon Dr Harold Whitehouse gave a talk on his test-tube agar culture techniques and clearly explained the value of using axenic cultures for taxonomic problems. This was followed by a demonstration of the techniques and an opportunity to discover personally that quite a bit of private practice may be required to become as skilled as Harold in sterile methods.
On Sunday morning Michael Fletcher gave a talk entitled ‘Bryoculture, a systems analysis approach’. He introduced us to many new interpretations of familiar acronyms but also challenged us to become bryoculturists. Again, this was followed by the chance to set up cultures; many of them derived from the large number of varied specimen pots that Michael had brought to the meeting. At the end of the morning, Dennis Brown extolled the virtues of his ‘sandwich-box and Velcro’ culture method for testing the effects of pollutants on growth and investigating regeneration problems. People began to disperse from lunchtime – usually happily clutching method sheets, bottles of nutrient solutions or pots of newly planted material and replete with discussions of practical problems, challenging taxa and knowing how to succeed in a different branch of active bryology.