... with one eye open.

By Chamaeleo

NHM: JP And Her Seaweeds

Some like it large ("L").

Here we are behind-the-scenes at the NHM: this is a tale from "the crypt"...
I think it is fair to say that everyone who works at the NHM enjoys a good mystery: JP is Queen of Seaweeds, and stumbled across three specimen sheets with no collection information, and only labelled with the numbers 5, 6, and 7.

Hum: most unsatisfactory...
... so off she set to solve the mystery.

After scouring through the folders of specimens of the species in question (Alaria esculenta, winged kelp), she found four further specimen sheets labelled with the numbers 1 to 4 in the same hand: they matched and aligned, and sheet one bore the collection information! This specimen was collected by Edward George in 1866 in Whitby, Yorkshire. He was something of a perfectionist, and JP has previously shown me other specimens of his which were all beautifully arranged and mounted.

The curator of algae and JP reckon that this is the largest algal specimen in the museum's collection: it is an individual (brown) alga, with the sporophylls spreading out from the stipe at the base, and the stipe continuing up the frond as a central midrib. It is actually folded back on itself at the top, so would have looked longer in life. The whole organism was anchored to its substrate by the knotted-looking holdfast at the very bottom of the picture.

The curator of pteridophytes (ferns & fern allies), AP, came to look at the specimen; there was a soupçon of rivalry in the air as JP suggested that it is probably the largest specimen in the herbarium, but AP recalled that one particular bracken frond is spread over 12 sheets (and the fern sheets are larger in size...).

I reckon that I took the high ground by keeping my lips sealed, and by (super-sneakily) photographing the very impressive seaweed from above...

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