July 28, 2008

Capital’s ‘Florist of Arabia’ is Honoured for Botanical Work


YOU could say he is the florist of Arabia.

An Edinburgh botanist has just been honoured by the Saudi government for decades of conservation work in the country.

Tony Miller, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's specialist on the flora of Arabia, was presented with a honorary plaque from Prince Bander Bin Saud Bin Mohammad, on behalf of the country's National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD).

The ornate centrepiece is a model of the head of an Arabian Oryx, a species of antelope saved from extinction and now increasing in numbers, thanks to a successful breeding and conservation programme.

Mr Miller is currently advising NCWCD on several conservation projects in Saudi Arabia, and is liaising with Arabian plant and wildlife specialists to help develop plans to preserve wildlife in its natural habitats and to assist with the establishment of protected areas and reserves.

He has also worked on establishing a detailed database of local plants, and listing the most endangered species to ensure their protection.

On receiving the award he said: "I feel very honoured to have been given this award in recognition of the extensive research I have undertaken into the flora of Saudi Arabia. It is a vast and very diverse country with around 3500 plant species. I am pleased myself and colleagues at RBGE will be involved in the exciting work that NCWCD."

Mr Miller is working on the project with fellow botanist Dr Sabina Knees, RBGE's researcher on the flora of Arabia and their colleagues Sophie Neale and Matt Hall.

He was also instrumental in putting together the "Soqotra - Land of the Dragon's Blood Tree" which recently opened in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. The exhibition focuses on the islands which lie in the Gulf of Aden between the Horn of Africa and Arabia, and in particular the strange super-sized succulent trees which scientists now believe may hold important clues about the ecology of the entire Mediterranean and Middle-eastern region.

The exhibition was first premiered at RBGE in 2006, where its first visitors were Prince Charles and Camilla.

RBGE director of science professor Mary Gibby, who joined Mr Miller at the exhibition's opening in Saudi Arabia, said: "Tony is leading a very productive research programme on the flora of the Arabian peninsula and for over 25 years has been working actively with biologists, conservationists and government officials to raise knowledge and understanding.

"His expertise and these collaborations are helping to secure the long-term conservation of Important Plant Areas in the region.

"I welcome the recognition of his work by Prince Bander Bin Saud Bin Mohammad."

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.