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Inspirational botanists mark International Women’s Day

08 March 2012

botanists webFruit body of the sulphur tuft fungus, Hypholoma fasciculare. ©Martyn Ainsworth

An exhibition, entitled Inspirational Botanists – Women of Wales marks the contribution of women to botanical science in Wales in the past 200 years.

Cardiff University researchers, Professor Lynne Boddy and Professor Dianne Edwards, are amongst the 13 botanists connected with Wales to be celebrated in the exhibition.

The exhibition is on show in the Garden Gallery of the National Botanic Garden of Wales throughout March 2012 with a special launch event on 8 March – International Women’s Day.

The exhibition features 13 women either born or educated in Wales, or whose main body of work has been done in this country. Visitors will get the chance to read about their lives and see photographs, objects and the images of plants associated with them.

University fungal ecologist, Professor Lynne Boddy from the School of Biosciences, is one of mycology’s most effective advocates, arguing for the importance of fungi in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems as the world’s great decomposers. "Fungi are not plants, but no plant could live without fungi." she says.

‘All plants have fungi living inside them, more often than not in a mutualistic relationship. These are called endophytes. Ninety five per cent of plants have fungi associated with the roots forming a relationship called a mycorrhiza. It is, in fact, fungi which obtain water and nutrients from soil and feed these to the plants via this mycorrhiza association. These fungi also protect plant roots, to some extent, from possible pathogens. Another way in which fungi interact with plants is as pathogens or parasites that actually do damage to plants.’ explained Professor Boddy.

As President of the British Mycological Society in 2010, Professor Boddy assisted in the transfer of the exhibition"From Another Kingdom " from Edinburgh to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, where she displayed everyday items based on fungi at the launch.

From Another Kingdom was opened by myself in March last year at the National Botanic Garden of Wales and since then thousands of people have visited. I was delighted to be one of the team of people who helped put together this exhibition. Firstly, at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh where it ran for four months in 2010. We also put together the book From Another Kingdom: The Amazing World of Fung (which is in its second printing now) associated with this exhibition aimed at showing the general public how important fungi are in our lives,’ says Professor Boddy.

Her work in the School of Biosciences centres around research into the ecology of fungi, especially those which decay wood, ooking at how invertebrates interact with wood decay fungi and soil, how fungal communities change as wood decay proceeds and investigating rare and endangered species.

botanists web 2The mycelium of the Hypholoma fasciculare, growing from a piece of wood across the surface of soil.

University palaeobotanist, Professor Dianne Edwards from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, is a long standing Fellow of the Linnean Society and will become its second only woman President in May 2012. Professor Edwards’ work has led to more precise knowledge of the evolutionary time scale of vascular plants, and this in turn contributed to her involvement in the development of the National Botanic Garden of Wales as one of the founder Trustees. One particular aspect of the Garden, the layout of the systematic beds in the double walled garden according to the then newly developed APG classification based on DNA analysis of plants, was her inspiration.

Inspirational Botanists – Women of Wales is assisted by a group of volunteers from around Wales - a seven-strong team researched and put the gallery show together. The Garden Director, Dr Rosie Plummer, commenting on the exhibition said: "Women’s contribution to science has so often been overlooked it is excellent we are able to show the career paths of amateurs and professionals alike and what can be achieved."

For more information about the Inspirational Botanists – Women of Wales exhibit visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales website -

Related Links

School of Biosciences

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

National Botanic Garden of Wales

International Women’s Day