For a plant that we generally associate with shady, damp places, a plant that has no flowers or scent, the Fern has drawn us into her fronds and driven an obsession that is quite like any other. Pteridomania or Fern Madness swept through Victorian Britain in part thanks to the availability of plate glass from which manufacturers could build glass cases for growing ferns. The trade in ferns all but wiped out some species from parts of the UK and fern hawkers sold specimens on street corners in London. Brett Westwood and Verity Sharp trace our relationship with the fern on a journey from a slide of spores in Durham, to the art of Nature Printing via a garden fernery and discover that the fern is still weaving its magic spell over us.
Natural Histories : Poppy
Poppies are associated with many things but to most people they are a symbol of remembrance or associated with the opium trade. Natural Histories examines our fascination with the flower. Lia Leendertz visits the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew where James Wearn shows her a collection of poppy paraphernalia from around the world. Andrew Lack, of Oxford Brookes University and author of Poppy, explains how the flower made its way to the British Isles with the introduction of agriculture, and Joe Crawford of Exeter University describes the popularity of the opium poppy in 19th century Britain, especially among female poets. A vibrant opium trade led British horticulturalists to try and establish a home grown opium crop - without success. Fiona Stafford appraises the poppy in art encouraging us to look again at Monet's late 19th century painting of a poppy field in northern France. It was painted just a few decades before the outbreak of the Great War which established the red poppy as a permanent reminder of the bloodshed of fallen soldiers.
Natural Histories : Chicken
How did we get from the gorgeous red junglefowl scratching away in the jungles of south-east Asia to the chicken now eaten in its millions? Brett Westwood and Joanna Pinnock trace the trail. The story's told by Greger Larson, Director of the Palaeogenomics & Bio-Archaeology Research Network; Annie Potts, Director, New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies; Dr Joanne Edgar, University of Bristol School of Veterinary Sciences and by a visit to meet real red junglefowl, the original chicken, at the Pheasantry at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
Natural Histories : Bee
Bees have been the subject of fascination and reverence since ancient times. Natural Histories explores the story of bees and why humans like to compare themselves to them, seeing ourselves as either virtuous workers or moral examples. The ancient Greek poets thought of themselves as bees who foraged and chose the sweetest words to produce great art, while the Victorians admired bees for their industry and selflessness. But with news of declining bee populations around the world, Natural Histories talks to those who monitor the decline of some species and try to address the ecological problems causing their demise, as well as to honeybee keepers who say that in the cities, bees are actually thriving.
Living World : My Living World : Stone Curlew
Wildlife film maker Hannah Stitfall is joined by Dom Davies, a wildlife film researcher to discuss another pick from the Living World archive. Today their subject is Stone Curlews and a programme in which the presenter Joanna Pinnock travels to Wiltshire in search of these crepuscular waders whose haunting calls can be heard after dusk. She is joined by Nick Adams of the RSPB who has been working with local farmers on a conservation project to improve the habitat for these birds and restore the population which became seriously depleted in the mid-1980s. For Hannah and Dom the programme offers a rare encounter with a bird that few of us will have seen or heard.