Webb's - An Irish Flora
The new edition (8th) of the standard flora of Ireland was launched in TCD on Wednesday 28th March by Professor Steve Blackmore, CBE, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and Queen’s Botanist. This edition, by John Parnell & Tom Curtis with illustrations by Elaine Cullen all of the School of Natural Sciences, is so substantially different from previous ones that it is, essentially, a new work. Even the title has changed. The new title, ‘Webb’s An Irish Flora’, honours the late Professor D.A. Webb of TCD who was involved in all previous editions and was the doyen of Irish Botany for decades.
The arrangement of plants in the flora now utilises the latest phylogenetic arrangement of the flowering plants – the so-called APGIII arrangement - which arrangement has also been used to reorder the Irish and British plant collections in the Trinity College Herbarium and other major herbaria.
The Flora, which has taken about 10 years to put together, now describes all native plant species as well as all those that are relatively commonly introduced, provides information on their distribution, taxonomy, ecology, conservation and any unique features of interest.
Besides incorporation of many new species; rewriting of all keys and all descriptions; addition of a new key to trees and shrubs in winter; addition, standardisation and updating of distributional information; addition of English names for all protected species and expansion of the number of Irish and English common names; inclusion of a list of protected species with comments on conservation and citation for all species listed of scientific authorities the text has also been written so as to minimise the use of specialised terminology so making it more user friendly. Finally, Illustrations are now more numerous and in colour.
Mike Collins from the publisher Cork University Press commented that it was already a best-seller and that although only on bookshop shelves for under a month the book has proven so popular that over 1,000 copies had been sold and it has had to be reprinted. Sales such as these are very unusual indeed in academic publishing and led the President of UCC to send his congratulations to the authors on a remarkable achievement.
In formally launching the book Professor Blackmore commented on the essential need there is for continued flora production worldwide thereby facilitating sustainable planning and economic development and enhancing our knowledge of biodiversity. The new flora, he believed, was one of the first, if not the first in the World to be structured around the APGIII scheme and that this complimented the new layout, easy-to-read authoritative text and enticing, accurate and informative illustrations by Elaine Cullen.
Responding to Professor Blackmore the flora’s authors and the Head of the School of Natural Sciences, Professor Celia Holland, drew attention to the unique position the TCD Botany Department maintains through its research in systematic botany and the unique resources it has been able to accumulate over time to facilitate that work – notably the large collection of preserved plant material kept in its herbarium. Writing any flora depends on a large repository of reference material and the TCD herbarium is such a repository – an unique university resource in Ireland and almost so in Britain and Ireland. Commenting on the book John Parnell and Tom Curtis thanked the many people who had been involved in the books gestation and field testing it before publication.