Plants Tell Stories

Plants tell stories

I have been observing, studying or working with plants since I was a toddler, quite a long time! The greenery around us is so prevalent that we tend to overlook it, we are so used to it we often pass by without a thought. Yet, without plants and fungi we would not exist. They are remarkable organisms and even a little knowledge of them will unfold extraordinary stories. Understanding their place in our world, scientifically, economically and culturally, will be vital if we are to continue to thrive on this planet.

Television & Radio

A versatile communicator, I have appeared on a wide range of television programmes in the UK and internationally, talking about the fascinating world of plants. Most recently, I travelled to Yunnan in China to film a documentary for Discovery Channel Asia-Pacific on the plants and people of the region. I have also appeared on Living the Life, Islam TV and on Nature’s Weirdest Events, BBC2 talking about the ‘mysterious’ appearance of furry green balls on a beach in Australia. I have twice been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage, discussing forensic botany and invasive non-native species. I have also featured on news and current affairs TV and radio programmes including Sky News and Countryfile, talking about a wide range of issues involving plants. I am regularly used to communicate on topics such as invasive non-native species, and the impacts of climate change on the living world.

Public Speaking

I am an experienced public speaker and give talks on a variety of subjects relating to plants. I am particularly respected for my ability to enliven the allegedly dull world of plants to a wide range of audiences including school groups, art societies and even accountants! I am an accredited Arts Society lecturer and have am registered with agencies providing guest speakers on cruise ships and corporate events. I am also happy to discuss a bespoke approach to your event.

Lecture topics

I am available to give talks on a wide range of topics relating to forensic botany, the history of botanic gardens and our wild-plant life.

Below is a selection of the lectures I currently provide. I am also happy to discuss a bespoke approach for your event.

  • The botanic gardens of London before Kew
  • The Herbarium of Carl Linnaeus and the Linnean Society of London
  • Natural history collections, what are they used for?
  • Murder most florid
  • Wild plants in the urban environment
  • Exploration of the Caribbean’s natural wonders
  • Why are plants so diverse?
  • Sir Hans Sloane’s Jamaica
  • Macaronesia – the fabled land

If you are interested to learn more about my lecture topics please get in touch or learn more.

Download lecture synopsis

Botany & Museum Consultancy

I have over 15 years experience of the museums and galleries sector and have spent decades studying our plant life. I offer a wide range of services including habitat surveys, museum collections management and scientific writing.

​Field botany and surveys

I am an experienced field botanist, with particular expertise in urban habitats. I have led botanical survey and herbarium collection projects across southern England, especially in the Isles of Scilly where I led a 3-year multidisciplinary (botany, entomology and zoology) project. I have undertaken numerous Phase 1 and 2 Habitat Surveys as well as bespoke projects for organisations such as the Environment Agency.

​Curation and Museology

Currently, I am the Honorary Curator of the Linnaean and Smith Herbariums at the Linnean Society of London. I have over 15 years’ experience of large scale collections management including digitisation, documentation and care. I am also highly regarded for the innovative approaches to collections accessibility and use (particularly in the realm of environmental change) that I have developed. Alongside the management of collections, I played a significant role in the development of innovative Citizen Science projects such as the Natural History Museum’s Bluebell Survey and Orchid Observers.

​Scientific writing and editing

Effective communication is core to engaging people. Whilst at the Natural History Museum, I wrote numerous in-house pieces for the museum’s publications and for its website. I have also written articles for a wide range of publications including The Garden. I am also an editor of scientific works and an experienced academic author. I am also writing an account of my experiences whilst working as a forensic botanist.

​Garden History and Restoration

I have an interest in the history of northern European gardens and the introduction of exotic new plants during the 17th and 18th centuries. Contributing to an Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported project, I am researching the plants grown in the garden of Henry Compton, Bishop of London whose garden at Fulham Palace was considered one of the finest in England in its heyday.

​Botanical training

Enabling people to appreciate the natural world is not only enjoyable but vitally important. Over the last 15 years, I have led many botany walks, especially in London. I am an experienced botanical trainer and currently provide tuition for the Field Studies Council and the South London Botanical Institute. Recently, I have started lecturing on garden history and plant taxonomy for Birkbeck Garden History Group.

Special Projects:

I enjoy working on both collaborative projects or working on my own. Some are for my own pleasure, such as the Rev. Adam Buddle project. Others, like the London Flora Project or my work on invasive species contribute to understanding and conserving our plant life.

​Flora of London Project

A flora is a botanical account of the wild plants growing in a specific area. On behalf of the London Natural History Society, I am leading a 20-year project to document the native and non-native wild plants of London and the surrounding area. This project involves co-ordinating a team of over 60 volunteers and aims to update the last London flora (Burton’s Flora of the London Area) published in 1983. We are documenting plants such as London rocket (Sisymbrium irio), a non-native with a long history in London and declining native plant plants such as marsh sow-thistle (Sonchus palustris).

​Rev Adam Buddle herbarium

Alongside my work in exploring herbariums for information on 17th and 18th century gardens, I am working on documenting the important but under-researched herbarium of Rev. Adam Buddle whose collection now resides in the Sloane Herbarium of the Natural History Museum. Buddle’s collection and the associated manuscript Methodus nova stirpium Britannicarum (housed in the British Library) are almost unique survivors of early-modern English botanical science.

​E.J Salisbury photographic archive

Photography is often a poorly curated and understood resource in natural history collections. Working with the artist Chrystel Lebas, I managed the restoration and curation of the, then unknown, photographic archive of the plant ecologist and former Director of Kew Gardens, Sir E.J. Salisbury. This collaboration resulted in the 2017 publication by Chrystel of Field Studies: Walking through Landscapes and Archives to which I contributed an essay.

​Invasive Non-native Species and Biocontrol

I am an independent advisor on the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) lead Biocontrol Steering Group. I am also an author and peer-reviewer of Pest Risk Assessments (PRAs) for the GB Non-native Species Secretariat (GB NNSS), In the London area, I am a board member of the London Invasive Species Initiative.