|Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, the Netherlands|
I arrived jet-lagged on 5 August, flights courtesy of my generous brother-in-law who shared his excess frequent flier miles. (Thanks, Doug!) I hadn't been to Europe in 9 years and I've never been outside the historic splendor of Italy, so this was a real treat to spend a little less than a week really getting to know Leiden. I was immediately awe-struck by the impressive Dutch rail system and how easy, clean, and fast it was. It puts the US Amtrak system to shame (but really, what doesn't?). Leiden is just a single stop from the Amsterdam area airport Schiphol; what a beautiful city! I learned a few lessons while here: Nearly every Leiden resident is willing to help you with directions and are used to it since their city is a confusing network of small alleys interrupted by canals. Nearly every resident speaks excellent English and are more than willing to try it out on a native English speaker. And, at every opportunity, go for a walk. This city is extremely walkable and gorgeous, filled with history and beautiful architecture. This is the city where Rembrandt was born in 1606, where one of Barack Obama's ancestors, Thomas Blossom, lived as an English immigrant on his way to America with a group of Pilgrims (the Dutch are very proud of that connection to Obama and had a very prominent plaque in the square where the Pilgrims once lived), and where Anna Cornelia Carbentus, Vincent van Gogh's mother, is buried. The central city is compact, ringed by a many-pointed star-shaped canal built for defense purposes and dotted with impressive public parks. Who can resist such European charm?
|One of the many amazing displays in the|
Wintergarden at Hortus Botanicus, part
of the public exhibition complementing
the ICPS conference. Bravo!
The first lecture session included a talk by Australia's Allen Lowrie on Australian Drosera (sundews), a discussion by Gert Hoogenstrijd on his trips through Venezuela to the Table Mountains where many rare carnivorous plants are found, a report by François Mey on his incredible efforts to study the Nepenthes flora of Indochina, and lastly a thorough trip-report style lecture by Andreas Fleischmann on the Drosera and Roridula of South Africa. Truly a cosmopolitan collection of speakers and topics! I really do commend the organizers on working very hard to include something for everyone.
Allen's lecture captivated me the most, but the take-home message from all lectures seemed to be that there is so much more work to do in terms of systematic study of species, specimens, and species complexes to tease out the real evolutionary relationships and taxonomies. This was true for Allen's Drosera and Gert's Heliamphora and certainly the Nepenthes of Indochina have their own systematic issues when it comes to the circumscription of species, subspecies, and varieties. Such topics are best left to the experts and it was great to see such expertise on display.
Sarracenia flava var. cuprea in the impressive
Wintergarden canopy walk above the main collection.
I'll stop here and post the remaining trip report, including two more days of lectures, later.