Amgueddfa Blog

Hello bulb buddies,

What an interesting time to be studying and observing the weather! Most of you will have had snow and high winds this last week. I understand that many schools were closed, and that conditions in the school grounds may have meant you weren’t able to collect weather data on days that you were in school.

It’s likely that you’ve heard people talking about weather warnings a lot over the last week. Weather warnings are released by the MET Office (the UK’s official weather service) and are colour coded (green, yellow, amber and red) to indicate how extreme the weather will be in different areas.

Green: weather is not expected to be extreme.

Yellow: possibility of extreme weather so you should be aware of it.

Amber (orange): strong chance of the weather effecting you in some way, so be prepared.

Red: extreme weather expected, plan ahead and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.

The Met Office also use symbols to indicate what type of weather to expect. For example, the symbols to the right show (in order) a red warning for rain, green for wind, green for snow, amber for ice and green for fog. This means there will be heavy rain and that you should prepare for ice. Why not have a look at the Met Office website and see what the weather forecast is for where you live?

Amber and red warnings for wind, snow and ice were given for many parts of the UK last week as storm Emma and the ‘Beast from the East’ collided. The Met Office warn us about bad weather so that we can prepare for it. This is because extreme weather (such as strong winds and ice) can cause difficulties and make it hard to travel. Roads and train lines can close, flights can be cancelled, and walking conditions can be dangerous.

What was the weather like where you live? If you weren’t able to collect weather records you can enter ‘no record’ on the online form, but please let me know in the comment section what the weather was like! You can also let me know how your plants are doing and whether they have flowered!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant


Comments about the weather:

Ysgol Beulah: Roedd eira yn pot ni :)!!!!!!!!!.

Ysgol Carreg Emlyn: Mae hi wedi bwrw eira yma heddiw.

Ferryside V.C.P School: mae wythnos hyn wedi bod yn bwrw lot

Broad Haven Primary School: Snow Hail sleet sun rain gales . We have seen them all.

St Robert's R.C Primary School: We had a cold week this week.

Peterston super Ely Primary School: Lots of snow on Friday

Steelstown Primary School: Once again northern Ireland has been hit by a cold patch but Derry has once again missed out on heavy snowfall roll on spring.

Severn Primary: Some other places got some snow and it was really cold on Thursday when we went out for Games because of the wind. Hope we get snow!


Canonbie Primary School: We had snow again this week and lots of rain. Little signs of life springing through but no flowering bulbs yet.

Canonbie Primary School: This week has been a bit mixed weather wise. We had freezing conditions and snow on Tuesday but milder conditions by Friday. Typical British weather.

Carnbroe Primary School: Hi Professor Plant, we were off all week except for Thursday and Friday. The weather this week has been cold and icy.

Peterston super Ely Primary School: Snow days on Thursday and Friday

Onthank Primary School: No record of result due to snow days.

Auchenlodment Primary School: The Beast from the East hit this week! There was lots of snow and we were off school, yippee!

St John's Primary School: School was closed on Thursday due to weather conditions.

Fleet Wood Lane Primary School: School closed because of snow on Weds – Fri.

Carnforth North Road Primary School: The weather this week has been very cold and windy. The children have had to wrap up warm to gather the data.

Portpatrick Primary School: Very cold first thing - frozen ground, but no snow.

Inverkip Primary School: Hi professor plant Monday we had ALOT of rain but every other day it didn't rain at all. The temperature was warm then it dropped down but steadied up at the end of the week.

Steelstown Primary: We are starting to get some warm weather and some of our bulbs are growing.

Arkholme CE Primary School: It was very cold and on some days it was frosty.

St Andrew's RC Primary School: The rain gauge was broken by the frost, we have ordered a new one. This is why we have no rainfall for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.


Comments about your plants:

Ysgol Beulah: Roedd y tywydd yn oer iawn felly dydy'r blodau ddim wedi blaguro eto.

Ysgol Y Traeth: Mae sawl un o'r blodau wedi dechrau tyfu a rhai wedi dechrau agor yn araf. Mae 14 crocws wedi tyfu a 27 daffodil wedi tyfu.

Carnbroe Primary School: Hi Professor Plant, our bulbs still have not bloomed yet. The weather this week has been changeable. It has been wet, really really cold and icy and although the sun is out it's been cold.

Ysgol Bro Pedr: Many bulbs making an appearance now - a very cold week

Peterston super Ely Primary School: Meghan's crocus has finally flowered! Hopefully when we return from our half term holiday a few more will have flowered too.

Peterston super Ely Primary School: The children are very excited this week as one of our crocus bulbs has finally flowered!

Darran Park Primary: The temperature is still very cold. Our daffodils haven't grown but our crocus have a little bit.

Inverkip Primary School: Mon - Wed school holidays so no data collected. The bulbs are growing well in the pots but not in the ground yet. None have started to flower.

Pembroke Primary School: Looks like I planted two crocus and 1 daffodil. When I saw mine I was surprised.

Pembroke Primary School: This was the first in our class. T has now left the school. The pot wasn't full to the top with compost so this may have resulted in it flowering early.

Auchenlodment Primary School: Got colder this week with very little rainfall. Most of the bulbs have begun to sprout!

Stanford in the Vale Primary School: Beautiful deep purple flower.

Ysgol Bro Pedr: The first crocus opened over our half term.

Bacup Thorn Primary School: Monday and Tuesday were teacher training days at Thorn. We are back and ready to measure! The children noticed some of our bulbs are making a slight appearance!!

Amy Wyatt is a Professional Training Year Intern from Cardiff University, find out more about Amy's project this year


A herbarium is a collection of preserved plant specimens that have been stored appropriately, databased and arranged systematically to ensure quick access to students, researchers and the general public for scientific research and education. The Welsh National Herbarium contains vascular plants, bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), lichens, fungi, and algae. In the vascular herbarium, specimens are arranged by plant family/genus, and stored alphabetically.  Specimens are stored in tall cabinets within the herbarium which is kept cool at all times. Each cabinet usually contains one taxonomic group of plants, for example members of the genus ‘Rubus’ have their own cabinet/section within the herbarium. And within the ‘Rubus’ cabinet, you will find individual species of Rubus (Rubus occidentalis-black raspberry, Rubus aboriginum–garden dewberry), each with its own folder containing all specimens of that species.  Some specimens have been digitised and placed on an electronic system to make accessing records and ‘borrowing’ specimens to other institutions easier.

Herbaria are essentially the ‘home’ of historical plant records, containing information that would otherwise be lost in time. It is the curator’s role to ensure that all specimens are kept contamination free, are stored according to the correct guidelines, and are all stored systematically. The herbarium is checked regularly for infestations, and strict guidelines are put in place to ensure all specimens remain in pristine condition. Any loss or damage to specimens would be catastrophic because of the irreplaceable nature of collections. Herbaria also contain type specimens, individual specimens that an author based their description on when describing a new species. So, damage to these specimens has wide devastating impacts to not just museum collections, but science and taxonomy as a whole.

Who benefits from herbaria?

HISTORIANS: Specimens stored in the herbarium can give insights into the daily life of people in history. Collections like the economic botanic collection contain plants and botanical items that were of important domestic, medicinal, cultural use to society in the past. This collection contains herbs, dyes, textiles and culturally important items that are kept demonstrate their importance to world culture through displays, museum visits and exhibitions! Historians can also use herbarium collections for project collaborations, for record of discoveries and for exploration.

BOTANISTS: The most obvious field that benefit from herbaria is botany; botanists are scientists that exclusively study and perform experiments on plants. Some herbaria records span back hundreds of years, so this gives botanist a unique chance to look at how plant life has changed in this period of time. There are many studies that can be performed on herbaria entries, and usually depends on the specialist skills of the researcher looking at them. Botanists can look at changes in stomatal density, how a plant species has changed over time, when invasive species were first documented in the herbarium, what plant species are abundant at a particular period of time, flowering times of plants, if there are any gaps in plant records, amongst a whole host of other information

SCIENTISTS: It’s not exclusively botanists that benefit from herbaria, other branches of science can also use the collections in their research. Biologists, conservationists and ecologists can benefit from the specimens found in herbarium and frequently use collections for ongoing research. Specimens provide a detailed account of plant life, and this information can be used to look at diversity and abundance of certain plant species, patterns of plant distribution, record of rare plant sightings (e.g. here we have a very precious collection of ghost orchids, which were thought to be extinct until 2009 and have only been sighted a hand full of times since), environmental responses to changes in the climate or weather, to educate students, etc. Herbaria can also be an excellent source of collaboration between universitys and the Museum, providing networking potentials.

TEACHERS/PEOPLE IN EDUCATION: Herbaria and museums are a great source of outreach for education of the public. Collections like the economic botany collection provide historical context to important botanical items (e.g Indigo, cinnamon) that have part of our culture behind them. The herbarium also has active researchers working upon vascular plants, lower plants, and diatoms. This work is often used to educate the public at events like museum exhibits, guided tours of the herbarium, conferences, and shows like the RHS flower show. 

What can be found in herbaria?

Vascular plants - Vascular plants are essentially ‘higher plants’ and are composed of all individuals that have water conducting tissue in their ‘stems’; flowers, grasses, trees, ferns, herbs, succulents, etc. are all types of vascular plants. These types of plants are usually stored on archival herbarium sheets, but the method of preparation and storage may depend on the contents of the specimen. Plants that are easily pressed are mounted onto acid free herbaria sheets, with a descriptive label for each specimen. These herbaria specimens must contain reproductive and vegetative organs, which are critical for species identification in plants. Any plant parts that can’t be easily pressed, e.g. tubers, bulbs, fleshy stems, large flowers, cones, fruits, etc are usually dried and placed in boxes or paper bags that are associated with other parts of the specimen.

Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) - Bryophytes include both liverworts and mosses are generally described as ‘lower plants’ and represent some of the oldest organisms on earth. Both groups grow closely packed together in matts on rocks, soil or trees. These types of plant don’t have regular water conducting tissue, so rely heavily on their environment to regulate their water levels. Both mosses and liverworts are unsuitable for ‘pressing’ as key features used in identification would be damaged during the process. Instead, specimens are dried, decontaminated and placed in packets, boxes or paper bags to ensure their long-term storage.

Lichens - Lichens are unique in plant taxonomy because they are an organism composed of two separate organisms in a symbiotic relationship. A lichen is composed of a fungus, and either an algal cell or bacterial cell. The fungal portion of the organism extracts organic carbohydrates and nutrients from the environment, and the algal/bacterial portion of the organism undergoes photosynthesis to capture energy from the sun. Because lichen are difficult to extract from their environment, commonly they are collected still attached to their substrate (rocks, bark, soil crusts) and stored in boxes.

Fungi - fungi are filamentous, simple organisms that occupy almost every habitat on earth. Fungi are not plants and belong in their own kingdom, as they contain no chlorophyll and extract organic nutrients directly from their environment. Surprisingly, most fungi are totally microscopic and invisible to the naked eye dwelling deep in the ground connected by a network of hyphae. It is only a small portion of macroscopic fungi that produce fruiting bodies we know as ‘mushrooms’. Fungal bodies cannot be pressed, they must instead by dried thoroughly and stored in cases or boxes.

Algae - Algae are a very diverse group of non-flowering aquatic organisms that contain chlorophyll, so can photosynthesise to produce energy for themselves. Algae are very important to the earth, and it’s estimated that they produce 70-80% of the earths atmospheric oxygen. The term ‘algae’ covers wide range of organism including sea weed, kelp, ‘pond scum’, algal blooms in lakes or pools, diatoms, etc. These groups are not necessarily closely related and can exist in a huge range of different forms! Collecting and preserving algae can be done in two ways, storing them in liquid to preserve the specimen or dry preserving the specimen on herbarium paper or a microscope slide. What method is best usually depends on the species being collected and its properties.

In November 2017, I started a placement with the Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales (AC-NMW). The four-month placement is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council Valuing Nature Programme. It aims to investigate ways in which the AC-NMW’s Economic Botany Collection can improve societal understanding and valuing of biodiversity and contribute to the AC-NMW well-being duty (Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015). I arrive at this placement with an interest in how plants and the cultivation of plants have the potential to support health and well-being in a range of ways.

Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales Economic Botany Collection

The Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales Economic Botany Collection consists of approximately 3,500 specimens of various items ranging from seeds to medicinal plants, dyes, tannins, cotton and other fibres as well as a range of oils, gums, resins and pine cones.

I have spent the first part of the placement exploring the collection. Highlights include the largest seed in the world – the Coco de Mer – to some of the smallest orchid seeds, a range of naturally dyed wool samples from Cambrian Mills – including Walnut, Elderberry, Indigo, Privet and Madder.

Stories and Seeds

Alongside the diversity of material contained within the collection, there are many stories. The collection includes a range of notation and correspondence of collectors. Exploring the collection also reveals interests of collectors. One of the previous Keepers of Botany at AC-NMW (1962-1984), SG Harrison had a keen interest in drift seeds, found floating along the tidal range of beaches across the world from Riviera Beach, Florida to Malaysia. A key contributor to the collection is AE Wade, who investigated Welsh flora within South Wales and surrounding environs. He contributed seeds of wild plants and flowers found in the verges of Cardiff city, within Cardiff Castle and National Museum Cardiff grounds, Cardiff and Barry Docks and the Vale of Glamorgan. There are also a number of seeds from Singleton Park Botanic Gardens and Kew Gardens.

Materia Medica

The Museum also hold the recently acquired Materia Medica collection from Prof. Terence Turner (School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cardiff University).

Next steps

The next phase of the placement invites members of the public explore how the collection might be better used and how new collecting approaches might best be approached. I am looking forward to meeting a range of stakeholders interested in biodiversity and well-being within Wales. One of the forms of engagement will include the co-production of a range of handling boxes of specimens from the Economic Botany Collection with a number of identified stakeholders, and a public consultation at the Museum during February half-term.

Medicinal Plants

The potential for the collection lies not only in enabling the public to learn more about the power of plants. It could also hold information that could support the health and well-being of future generations through scientific research. It is estimated that of the 250,000 species of flowering plants only 5,000 have had their pharmaceutical potential tested in laboratories. Cancer-curing properties have been found in a range of plants including:

  • Yew (Taxus baccata), the needles of which contains yew leaves contained compounds that could be used as starting material for the synthesis of paclitaxel, an active anti-cancer compound which can be used for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
  • Madagascan Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) contains several highly toxic alkaloids which have been used in the treatment of a number of cancers. One derived compound has been credited with raising the survival rate in childhood leukaemia from less than 10% in 1960 to over 90% today [1].
  • Sweet Wormwood (Artemisia annua) has  been used in China for centuries for treatment of malaria – since at least the third century CE. The active principle artemisinin which is a chemical that occurs naturally in the leaves of Sweet wormwood has been identified as a potent anti-malarial agent that may be used to treat one of the most deadly malarial parasites, Plasmodium falciparum [2]. Several semi-synthetic derivatives have now been used for combination therapies for the safe treatment of acute and recurrent malarial infections. There are now a range of programmes selecting and cloning high artemisinin-yielding chemotypes.

There must be more plant medicines to be discovered! By the year 2050, 60,000 species may become extinct. Conservation which preserves biological diversity is vital for the future. The Materia Medica gifted to AC-NMW by Prof Terence Turner of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences may prove to be a useful resource for the future of understanding the healing properties of plants. I am in the process of building links with the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Kew Garden and the Royal College of Physicians garden team to further explore how the Prof Turner’s Materia Medica could be developed as a resource.


The project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council-Valuing Nature Programme. Poppy Nicol is the principal researcher (Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University) currently based at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales. Findings will be presented in a report which will be made publicly available on the NERC Valuing Nature network website.



As we are sure you are aware, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes at the National Museum of Wales, including research, conservation and work experience. This week is Student Volunteering Week and in honor of this, we have taken the time to find out a little bit more about one of our interns, Eirini...


Name: Eirini Anagnostou

Job title/ Role: Intern

Department: History and Archaeology, National Museum Cardiff

Where you are you from?


What are you studying?

I am a student of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, studying Archaeology and History of Art

Why did you choose to study Archaeology and History of Art?

I've been interested in Art since high school, particularly Contemporary but also Renaissance and Byzantine art and I am also interested in cultural history and civilisations.

What are you doing here?

Erasmus+ placement programme, working as an intern updating the Portable Antiquities Scheme Cymru database – I’ve worked here for 2 months so far!

What are your main duties?

Using the Photoshop programme and processing images of artefacts found by mainly metal detectorists to go on the PAS database.

Next week I will be doing some photography, and working on developing stories on a collection of Ancient Greek coins. I am also hoping to have input into the development of an exhibition concept.

Why did you come to Cardiff?

I visited Cardiff three years ago and I liked the city. I chose the National Museum because it is one of the biggest museums in the UK. I think it’s a good experience for my personal development and future aspirations.

Are you enjoying your time in Cardiff?

Yes, Cardiff is a lovely city with friendly people. There are many things to do and a beautiful castle!

What have you enjoyed the most about working at NMW?

The working environment here is very friendly and helpful. I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve had the opportunity to see the galleries – I was amazed at the extensive collection of Impressionist paintings!

Have you seen anything that’s not currently on display that particularly interested you?

I’ve never seen so many artefacts before – I’ve never seen bones and prehistoric artefacts like those collected in the museum’s stores, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to see them.

What do you hope to learn from this experience?

I hope to learn how a museum works because I’d like to do a Masters in Museum Studies and possibly become a curator. I am still deciding where to study for my Masters degree. I also am enjoying experiencing living abroad and I hope to continue travelling for a couple more years.

To see more content related to the Portable Antiquites Scheme and the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project, a project currently working with PAS and local metal detectorists and communities to record all archaeological findings, click here.

What does ‘Wales and the Sea’ mean to me?

Well, quite simply, it’s a huge part of who I am!

Through my late father, I am the nephew, grandson, great nephew, great-grandson and great-great grandson of seafarers from the Ceredigion coastal village of Aber-porth.

They were all part of the massive, disproportionate even, contribution that Welsh seafarers made to the British merchant fleet during the two centuries 1750-1950.

Almost all reached the rank of master mariner, and over the centuries they commanded vessels that ranged in size from little coastal smacks that brought culm and limestone to Aber-porth in the 19th century, to the largest bulk carrier under the Red Ensign in the late 1960s.

One of them lies deep in the cold waters off Newfoundland where he drowned after his ship struck an iceberg. Another lies buried in the British cemetery at Chacarita in Buenos Aires, where he died whilst the Cardiff tramp he commanded was discharging Welsh coal to power Argentina’s railways and meat packing plants. Another had to deal with a murder on his ship after a dispute between two crew members over a gambling debt got way out of hand.

But mine is just not a story about seafaring men.

Communities like Aber-porth, where, at any one time in the early 20th century, up to half the village’s male population might be away at sea, were matriarchal communities, where strong women brought up families single-handed and endured the absence of their loved ones over extended periods. It is difficult to fathom the anguish and worry that they must have experienced on countless stormy nights, with thousands of miles of forbidding seas between them and their loved ones.

Nevertheless, there were advantages to being a captain’s wife! If their husband’s ship was in an UK or near-continental port, they would often travel to meet them for a brief interlude of conjugal company, taking advantage of their visits to sample the best shops with the latest fashions in Cardiff, Newcastle or Glasgow - even Antwerp or Hamburg!

And the wives of master mariners were always accorded the respect ashore that their husbands had at sea – my great-grandmother would always have been addressed as Mrs. Captain Jenkins!

With such an ancestry as this, it is ironic that accidents of employment meant that I was brought up miles from the sea in the heart of Montgomeryshire; visits to relatives in Aber-porth, when we fished for mackerel and set lobster pots, were confined to school holidays!

Montgomeryshire is my mother’s ancestral home; members of her family have been farming in the north of the former county since Elizabethan times at least, and one might think that the sea had little impact on their daily lives.

Nevertheless, in the mid-1880s, they had to leave their home, Ty Ucha' in the village of Llanwddyn, because the River Efyrnwy was being dammed to provide water for Liverpool, then at the height of its commercial success as one of Britain's foremost ports.

The impact of the sea extends far beyond our coasts, so this year’s event should be an event for all of Wales, not just our coastal communities.

Dr David Jenkins, Honorary Research Fellow.