Amgueddfa Blog

Economic botany is a term that refers to a group of plants that have recognised societal benefit. The Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales economic botany collection contains over 5,500 plant-based specimens, together with 12,000 timber specimens. Categories within the collection include medicinal plants; food products; dyes and tannins; gums, resins and fibres; and seeds.

The collection is curated by the Botany Team, within the Department of Natural Sciences, National Museum Cardiff. The timber collection is stored at Amgueddfa Cymru’s Collections Centre at Nantgarw.

The ‘Plants and People’ exhibition in the Insight Gallery, National Museum Cardiff which runs until 17 March 2019, offers insight into the Amgueddfa Cymru economic botany collection.

Amgueddfa Cymru’s economic botany collection has been gradually built up since the National Museum Cardiff’s foundation in 1905. The collection includes plant material from around the world, with a significant number of specimens from India, South-east Asia and East Africa. Specimens were collected actively by Amgueddfa Cymru curators, acquired from botanical gardens and agricultural research stations and donated by individuals.

Many specimens came to the Museum in the 1920’s and 1930’s when Britain was seeking new raw materials to develop trade and industry. Since the 1970s, most acquisitions have been collected for specific exhibitions at National Museum Cardiff.

In 2007, Amgueddfa Cymru acquired a Materia Medica collection donated and catalogued by Prof. Terence Turner (Cardiff University Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences). This includes nearly 500 specimens of mainly plant material historically used for medicinal purposes.

In 2017-2018 Poppy Nicol worked with Heather Pardoe to explore the economic botany collection and its relevance for helping us understand biodiversity and the importance of plants for health and well-being. You can read more about the Sharing Stories Sharing Collections Project here.

Look out for further blog posts about the economic botany collection during the People & Plants exhibition.

Helo Cyfeillion y Gwanwyn,

Diolch i bob ysgol sef wedi rhannu cofnodion blodau! Cofiwch i wneud yn siŵr bod y dyddiad yn gywir a bod taldra'r planhigyn wedi ei chofnodi yn filimedrau. Rydym wedi cael cofnodion yn dangos bod planhigion wedi blodeuo ym mis Ebrill a hefo disgrifiadau am grocws a chennin Pedr anhygoel o fyr!

Os ydych yn gweld bod eich cofnodion yn angen ei chywiro, yna yrrwch rhai newydd i mewn hefo esboniad yn y bwlch sylwadau.

Rwyf wedi mwynhau darllen y sylwadau hefo’r cofnodion tywydd a chofnodion blodau dros y pythefnos diwethaf. Rwyf wedi atodi rhai o’r sylwadau yn isod. Wnaeth Ysgol Stanford in the Vale gofyn cwestiwn da flwyddyn ddiwethaf,  'oes rhaid i gofnodi pob blodyn i’r wefan, beth os mae'r dyddiad a’r taldra'r un peth?' Mae’n bwysig i rannu’r cofnodion i gyd oherwydd mae'r nifer o blanhigion sydd yn blodeuo ar ddyddiad unigol a’r taldra'r planhigion yn effeithio ar ein canlyniadau.

I weithio allan taldra cymedrig eich ysgol ar gyfer y crocws a’r cennin Pedr, ychwanegwch bob taldra a rhannwch hefo'r nifer o gofnodion. Felly, os oes genych deg cofnodion o daldra i’r crocws, ychwanegwch y rhain a rhannwch hefo deg i gael y rhif cymedrig.

Os oes gennych un blodyn hefo taldra o 200mm ac un blodyn hefo taldra o 350mm, fydd y rhif cymedrig yn 275mm. Ond, os oes gennych un blodyn hefo taldra o 200mm a deg hefo taldra o 350mm fydd y rhif cymedrig yn 336mm. Dyma pam mae’n bwysig i gofnodi pob planhigyn.

Mae pob cofnod blodyn yn bwysig ac yn cael effaith ar y canlyniadau. Os nad yw eich planhigyn wedi tyfu erbyn diwedd mis Mawrth, plîs wnewch gofnod data heb ddyddiad na thaldra ac esboniwch hyn yn y bwlch sylwadau. Os mae eich planhigyn yn tyfu, ond ddim yn blodeuo erbyn diwedd mis Mawrth, yna plîs cofnodwch daldra'r planhigyn, heb ddyddiad blodeuo, ac esboniwch hyn yn y bwlch sylwadau.

Cadwch y cwestiynau yn dod Cyfeillion y Gwanwyn! Mae 'na nifer o adnoddau ar y wefan i helpu hefo’r prosiect. Unwaith mae eich planhigyn wedi blodeuo, fedrwch greu llun ohono a defnyddio hyn i labelu'r rhannau o’r planhigyn! Hoffwn weld ffotograff o rain a rhannu nhw ar y blog nesaf.

Ar y nodyn hwnnw, hoffwn rannu fideo Ysgol Llanharan gyda chi, cliciwch yma!

Daliwch ati gyda’r gwaith caled Cyfeillion y Gwanwyn,

Athro’r Ardd

This week marks the launch of the exhibition ‘People and Plants’ in the Insight Gallery, National Museum Cardiff and accompanying public report ‘Sharing Stories, Sharing Collections.’

The exhibition and report are outcomes of a collaborative placement between the Sustainable Places Research Institute and Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales funded by the National Environment Research Council Valuing Nature Programme.

During the placement, Dr. Poppy Nicol (Sustainable Places Research Institute) spent four months within the Natural Science Department at National Museum Cardiff. Poppy worked with Principal Curator Dr. Heather Pardoe and other members of the Botany team to investigate the Amgueddfa Cymru economic botany collection and its potential role it can play in supporting, valuing and understanding of biodiversity. As part of the placement, Poppy and Heather conducted a series of workshops with community groups and interviews, with the aim of exploring how future activities associated with the economic botany collection can further societal understanding and valuing of biodiversity and address the Museum’s duty of well-being.  

Drawing upon the findings of the placement, the exhibition offers insight into the Amgueddfa Cymru economic botany collection and the important role of plants in society.  

Health, well-being and plants

The Amgueddfa Cymru economic botany collection includes over 5,500 specimens of medicinal plants, food products, fibres, seeds, gums, dyes and resins, most of which were acquired between the nineteenth century and present day. The selected specimens in the ‘People and Plants’ exhibition highlights the role of plants in supporting the health and well-being of past, present and future generations.

Plant-based Remedies: old and new

The economic botany collection contains over 700 medicinal plant specimens including a Materia Medica (donated by Professor Terence Turner, Cardiff School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences). The exhibition features a range of plant specimens used medicinally – including quinine (used for treating malaria), star anise (containing a compound used for treating influenza) and senna pods (a traditional laxative).

It also features a contemporary example of a plant-based compound for medicinal purposes – the daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). Although toxic if consumed raw, it contains galantamine which is used in the treatment of the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Biocultural diversity: heritage grains

The exhibition also showcases some of the specimens within the Museum’s economic botany seed collection - which contains over 2,700 seed specimens. The collection includes a range of wheat, barley, oat and rye varieties acquired from the Welsh Plant Breeding Station. Hen Gymro, an old wheat variety affectionately known as “Old Man’s Beard” was cultivated in South Wales into the 1920’s, said to have thrived in South Wales. With predicted changing climates and the urgent need for more ecological growing approaches, perhaps some of these old grain varieties might be of value for future farmers and growers. The exhibition highlights the importance of safeguarding biodiversity – of both wild and cultivated crops and wild species.

Sharing Stories, Sharing Collections

The accompanying report to the exhibition, ‘Sharing Stories, Sharing Collections’ by Poppy, highlights how bio-cultural collections have the potential to support public understanding and valuing of biodiversity. It suggests recent legislation in the form of the Well Being of Future Generations Act (Wales) (2015) presents opportunity for Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales to become a global innovator in terms of curating bio-cultural collections.

The report identifies clear interest in the Amgueddfa Cymru economic botany collection amongst the public. It identifies a number of opportunities for innovation in bio-cultural and economic botany collections including research-driven curation; inter-generational learning programmes; and, innovative and participatory approaches to digitisation. Inter-disciplinary collaboration with other centres of learning particularly present great opportunities to share and enhance the value of the collection. Such innovations will improve the role of the collection in supporting public valuing and understanding of biodiversity and the health and well-being of future generations.

In an era where biodiversity is being eroded, bio-cultural collections have a crucial societal role of developing understanding and valuing of biodiversity through raising public awareness of the crucial role of plants in supporting livelihoods, supporting health and well-being, maintaining ecosystem services and adapting to global environmental change.

You can see the People & Plants exhibition at National Museum Cardiff until Sunday 17 March.

Read more about the start of the project in this February 2018 blog post.

The early 18th century court mantua from Tredegar House is perhaps the most well-known dress in the collection of Amgueddfa Cymru. Donated to the Museum in 1923 by Lord Tredegar, the mantua is currently on show in the Wales is… gallery at St Fagans.

Last year, we commissioned Kate Barlow – a maker and needlework teacher, originally from Mold – to replicate a motif from mantua’s heavily embroidered petticoat. This beautifully crafted tactile piece is now on display alongside the dress in the gallery. Here, Kate explains how she went about replicating the motif, and how she became a professional embroiderer.

Can you tell me how you got into embroidery?

From a very early age, I always loved to draw and paint and make things. My Nan was the kind of lady who could do all kinds of crafty things and she taught me to sew and to do embroidery. I went on to study Theatre Design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and specialised in costume. I worked for a few years as a freelance costume maker and then joined the wardrobe department at the Welsh National Opera. I stayed with WNO for nearly eight years and loved my job very much, but I missed being creative. I decided to take the plunge and re-train as a professional embroiderer and tutor at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. After three years of intensive training, I graduated with distinction in 2016 and haven’t looked back since.

How did you go about replicating the motif from the mantua – what were the steps/processes involved?

I chose a motif from the original mantua that would make sense on its own and work well as a stand-alone piece. I then chose threads and wires that replicated the originals as closely as possible, and sourced a teal coloured silk satin as the ground fabric. 

To transfer the motif to the silk, the design was drawn onto tracing paper and tiny holes were pricked along the lines with a needle to create the ‘pricking’. The tracing paper was then pinned to the silk which had been laced into an embroidery frame. Pounce powder made from ground charcoal and cuttlefish bone was rubbed through the holes of the pricking and the paper removed. Excess pounce was blown away and the dotted lines were painted over using watercolour paint, a fine paintbrush and a very steady hand! Once the painted lines are dry the stitching can start. 

Goldwork embroidery has to be worked in a certain order, with any padding being done first. Then the check thread and smooth passing threads are couched down, any loose ends are ‘plunged’ through to the back of the work and stitched down. The cutwork is always stitched last as it is quite fragile. Wire check and smooth purl resemble tiny springs and are made from very fine wires. These can be cut to the right lengths and stitched down in the same way as a bead. The thread used to stitch the goldwork down is always run through beeswax to protect and strengthen it. Goldwork threads, particularly cutwork, can be quite sharp and can damage the sewing thread. The beeswax helps to prevent this.

How long did it take you from start to finish?

From choosing the motif to taking the final stitches, the whole process took over 15 hours. 

Do you have any thoughts on the design and skill level of the embroidery on the mantua?

The mantua is made from silk damask which would have been costly on its own, but the amount of metal thread embroidery would have made it a very expensive purchase when new. The mantua would definitely have made a statement when it was worn, the embroidery would have truly sparkled, especially in candlelight. The embroidery would have been done by an experienced craftsman. Working with metal threads is very different from other embroidery techniques and requires a great deal of skill. 

Do you have a favourite embroidery technique or a favourite period in embroidery history?

I don’t really have a favourite embroidery technique, but I really like the effects that can be created with blackwork. Black threads on white linen can look stunning. I’m bit of a magpie and love anything that sparkles. I like using goldwork techniques with coloured metal threads and wires. I also love the stumpwork that was stitched in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The level of detail, the fineness of the stitching, the figures and motifs are all fascinating. The skill involved can be exceptional, particularly when there was no artificial light to help.

What does embroidery give to you? How does it make you feel?

There are endless possibilities with embroidery. Beautiful things can be created with just a needle and thread. There are so many different techniques, I feel like there is always something new to learn and always room for improvement. I really enjoy recreating historical embroidery. Most of the techniques and tools used in hand embroidery haven’t changed much in hundreds of years and stitching period designs gives a little window into the lives of stitchers past.

Rydym wedi dewis manganîs i sôn amdano ym mis Chwefror fel rhan o flwyddyn ryngwladol tabl cyfnodol yr elfennau cemegol. Efallai nad yw manganîs yn un o’r elfennau sy’n neidio i’r meddwl wrth sôn am Gymru ond mae’n bwysig iawn i Gymru ac, yn wir, i Ynysoedd Prydain.

Pan fydd yn ymddangos yn naturiol, mae’r elfen fetelig manganîs (symbol cemegol – Mn, rhif atomig 25), bob amser yn digwydd mewn cyfuniad ag elfennau eraill yn yr hyn a elwir gan wyddonwyr yn ‘gyfansoddion’.

Ymhell cyn y flwyddyn 1774, pan gafodd metel manganîs pur ei arunigo gyntaf a’i gydnabod yn elfen newydd gan y cemegydd o Sweden, Johan Gottlieb Gahn, gwelwyd bod cyfansoddion oedd yn cynnwys manganîs yn ddefnyddiol iawn mewn prosesau diwydiannol. Yn wir, gwyddom fod hen wareiddiadau fel yr Eifftiaid a’r Rhufeiniaid wedi defnyddio manganîs deuocsid i dynnu lliw o wydr.

Yng Nghymru, mae ocsidau manganîs yn digwydd mewn nifer o wahanol gefndiroedd daearegol ond ni ddechreuwyd cloddio amdanynt tan ddechrau'r 19eg ganrif pan ddaeth y dyddodion a oedd ar gael yn fwy hwylus yn Lloegr i ben. Gan mai ychydig o ocsidau manganîs oedd ar gael iddynt, dechreuodd y diwydiant gwydr chwilio ymhellach, mewn rhannau mwy anghysbell o Ynysoedd Prydain, yn cynnwys rhannau o ogledd Cymru.

Erbyn yr 1840au roedd ocsidau manganîs duon wedi’u canfod, a’u cloddio, yn y Bermo ac ardal yr Arennig yn Sir Feirionnydd, ac yn y Rhiw a Chlynnog Fawr yn Sir Gaernarfon. Roedd y dyddodion hyn i gyd yn fychan ac yn gymharol anghynhyrchiol, ond am resymau hollol wahanol.

Yn achos y Bermo a’r Rhiw, buan iawn yr oedd yr ocsidau manganîs duon, meddal, cyfoethog ar wyneb y tir yn troi’n graig galed, debyg i fflint, ddim ond ychydig ddegau o fetrau o dan yr wyneb. Yn y ddau leoliad, nid oedd y bobl yn gwybod am unrhyw ddiben i'r graig galed isod a rhoddwyd y gorau i gloddio, ond nid dyma oedd diwedd y stori.

Daw’r cofnod cynharaf o gloddio am fanganîs yn ardal yr Arennig o 1823 pan dalwyd breindaliadau am fanganîs o “Llanecil mines” (ym mhlwyf Llanycil y mae’r Arennig). Bu cloddio achlysurol mewn nifer o fwyngloddiau a chloddiadau prawf yn yr ardal tan ddechrau’r 20fed ganrif. Mae’r ocsidau manganîs duon hyn i’w cael mewn holltau cul, serth neu wythiennau, sy'n torri trwy greigiau folcanig hynafol o'r oes Ordofigaidd – a elwir yn 'twffau llif lludw'. Er mwyn cyrraedd y gwythiennau cul, serth hyn mae angen cloddio twnelau a suddo siafftiau, ac mae hynny’n fater costus. Buddsoddwyd cryn dipyn o arian yn rhai o’r mwyngloddiau ond y broblem fawr oedd bod angen cludo’r manganîs yn bell i’r gwaith gwydr yn St Helens, ger Lerpwl, ac i rannau eraill o Loegr.

Dim ond ychydig gannoedd o dunelli o’r mwyn a werthwyd i gyd ond roedd bob amser yn cael ei gyfrif yn fwyn o ansawdd da – yn cynnwys dros 70% o fanganîs ocsid. O safbwynt mwynoleg, disgrifiwyd y mwyn fel ‘psilomelan’ – term a ddefnyddir am unrhyw fanganîs ocsid caled, anhysbys, sy’n debyg i swp o rawnwin. Dangosodd astudiaethau dadansoddol modern ei fod yn cynnwys, yn bennaf, sawl haen o cryptomelan a holandit (ocsid manganîs potasiwm ac ocsid manganîs bariwm yn y drefn honno.)

Yn 1827 cafodd manganîs ei ddarganfod yn y Rhiw am y tro cyntaf. Cafodd ei brofi a gwelwyd ei fod yn addas i wneud halen cannu. Anfonwyd samplau at gwmnïau yn Lloegr, yr Alban, Iwerddon, yr Almaen a Rwsia ac, yn yr 1850au, roedd llwythi’n cael eu hanfon ar longau i Lerpwl a Runcorn.

Yn ystod yr 1930au, dywedir bod ocsidau manganîs o'r Bermo wedi’u hanfon i Glasgow i gannu gwydr, ond ychydig iawn o ddyddodion oedd ar gael a daethant i ben o fewn degawd.

Fel sy’n digwydd mor aml, mae datblygiadau gwyddonol yn creu cyfleoedd newydd ac yn canfod diben i ddeunyddiau a oedd gynt yn ddiwerth. Dyna’n union a ddigwyddodd gyda’r creigiau caled, tebyg i fflint, a ganfuwyd o dan yr haen arwynebol o ocsidau manganîs duon ger y Bermo ac yn y Rhiw. Yn y Bermo, gwelwyd bod y graig galed wedi’i gwneud o haenau o graig waddodol a ffurfiwyd ar wely môr dwfn yn y cyfnod Cambriaidd tua 520 miliwn o flynyddoedd yn ôl. Mae 28% ohoni yn fanganîs, ond mae ar ffurf silicadau a charbonadau sy'n ddiwerth ar gyfer gwneud gwydr. Fodd bynnag, tua dechrau’r 1880au, sylweddolwyd bod y graig galed hon oedd yn cynnwys manganîs yn beth delfrydol i’w roi mewn ffwrneisi chwyth i gynhyrchu dur manganîs cryf iawn.

Roedd un o gamau’r broses hon yn cynnwys creu aloion o haearn a manganîs o gyfrannedd benodol. Mae gan yr Amgueddfa enghreifftiau o ‘raddau’ gwahanol yr aloion haearn a manganîs o gasgliad bychan William Terrill (1845-1901) a oedd yn brofwr metel cemegol yn Abertawe.

Agorwyd nifer o fwyngloddiau mewn cyfnod byr ar draws y Rhinogydd, i mewn tua’r wlad o’r Bermo a Harlech, gan gloddio mewn gwely o graig 12 modfedd o drwch yn cynnwys llawer o fanganîs. Erbyn hydref 1886, roedd pedwar mwynglawdd yn cynhyrchu cyfanswm o 400 tunnell o fwyn bob wythnos ac, erbyn 1891, roedd 21 o fwyngloddiau’n gweithio. Oherwydd pwysigrwydd y diwydiant, gosodwyd rhwydwaith eang o draciau dros beth o dir garwaf Cymru. Datblygwyd dulliau anarferol o gloddio’r gwely mwyn tanddaearol a oedd yn aml ar oleddf bas, mewn ‘ystafelloedd’ mawr, gan adael colofnau o’r mwyn yn eu lle i gynnal y to. Roedd darnau o graig gwastraff yn cael eu pentyrru’n daclus ar y llethrau y tu allan i’r mwyngloddiau mewn ffordd na welwyd yn unman arall ym Mhrydain.

Fodd bynnag, nid oedd y mwyn cystal â mwyn o dramor. Felly, dechreuwyd cau’r mwyngloddiau, gyda’r olaf yn cau yn 1928. Cynhyrchwyd cyfanswm o 101,000 tunnell o fwyn o’r mwyngloddiau hyn. Roedd yr ocsidau manganîs duon a gloddiwyd gyntaf yn y Bermo yn rhan o gramen fain a ffurfiwyd trwy ocsidiad yn yr 11,000 o flynyddoedd ers diwedd yr oes iâ ddiwethaf trwy addasu’r carbonadau manganîs mewn cyswllt â dŵr glaw ac aer.