A new Hybrid Flora of the British Isles has just been published. This ground-breaking publication is the first of its kind in the world, detailing all known vascular plant hybrids in the British Isles. The accounts of 909 hybrids include notes on identification, habitats and distribution, chromosome number, information on fertility/sterility and capacity for vegetative reproduction. This important work also features completely novel maps, based on plant records collected by BSBI members, illustrating where the commoner hybrids occur in relation to their parents.
The Flora also includes summaries of experimental and molecular studies for the majority of hybrids, with briefer notes on a further 156 plants. Chris Preston, one of the editors of the Flora and who worked on the project whilst a botanist at the Biological Records Centre, comments that 'botanists took a long time to appreciate how many plant hybrids could be found in the wild. Even now that the frequent occurrence of hybrids is recognized it is often assumed to be "unnatural". However, the fact that hybridization is known to have been involved in the origin of a significant proportion of plant species suggests that it was a feature of floras long before the large-scale modification of the environment by human activities. The slow recognition of hybrids by botanists still influences the extent to which they are recorded today. Many identification manuals include only the commonest hybrids, and many botanists only attempt to identify a few easily recognized examples.' Chris has also recently summarised part of his work on plant hybrids in this article (currently open access), part of a special journal issue celebrating the 50th anniversary of the BRC.
Professor Richard Abbott, in his Foreword to the Hybrid Flora, also comments that “[t]his remarkable book will be an essential reference for all British and Irish botanists who have an interest in hybrids. … No other book of its kind exists for other parts of the world and consequently this book will surely set the standard for future hybrid floras”. There can be little doubt that the Hybrid Flora of the British Isles will be used by botanists seeking to identify hybrids in the field, by evolutionary biologists investigating the significance of plant hybridisation, by conservation biologists seeking to protect our biodiversity and by all those teaching about these topics.
The Hybrid Flora can be purchased here.