The National Botanic Gardens established a gold medal in 2007. The medal will be awarded, on an irregular basis, to those members of the Irish botanical community who have made a significant contribution to Irish Botany.
Maura Scannell reminds everyone of the importance of science and poetry in Botany Maura Scannell, former keeper of the National Herbarium, was presented with the National Botanic Gardens Medal at a small ceremony in the Director’s House on the 14th May 2008.
Peter Wyse Jackson, the Director of the Gardens, outlined Maura’s career and achievements, notably her work as Keeper of the Herbarium, her involvement with many floras, and her work in cataloguing the Irish Flora. Her Flora of Connemara and the Burren which she co-authored with David Webb in 1983 remains one of the best Floras of an Irish vice-county. Many hundreds of scientific publications, and thousands of herbarium specimens attest to her dedicated investigations of the fungi and flora of Ireland.
Maura then gave a spirited talk about her delight in the scale of botany, from the microscopic fungi she had discovered, new to science, in the grounds of the Botanic Gardens (Dothiorella davidiae on the fruits of Davidia involucrata in 1976), to exploring for plants in the west of Ireland. She described how it is the little things that are sometimes important, and botanists should record all that they see in a scientific manner, and that no information should ever be overlooked. She also pointed out how a herbarium is more than just a collection of pressed plants, it is a repository of the sum of knowledge about the plants that fill our landscape.
Matthew Jebb added that Maura’s dedication to the collections meant that she had had to strongly defend the integrity of the collections during 1970, when they were moved to Glasnevin. Last minute arrangements nearly resulted in major collections being disbursed, until Maura ensured they were moved in their entirety to the National Botanic Gardens. He had brought along a small vase of two significant plants in Maura’s career – Juncus planifolius, which Maura had discovered for the first time in the northern hemisphere when she collected it in Connemara in 1971, and a small aquatic – Hydrilla verticillata that the scientific establishment had long insisted was Elodea nuttallii, but which Maura had bravely and correctly proved was Hydrilla through cultivating it in the Gardens.
Matthew pointed out that several members of the audience had been encouraged since school children by Maura, whose attentiveness as a correspondent and enthuser of budding botanists has ensured her a lasting legacy.