Libby Houston is a poet, botanist and rock climber based in Bristol, where she is a research associate at the University.
Shortly after she moved to Bristol in 1979, Libby started helping Dr Frost at the University with research on the flora of the Avon Gorge, including spiked speedwell and Bristol rock-cress. Importantly, her skill as a rock climber allowed her to study populations nobody else could reach! She still routinely surveys the populations of many rarities, keeps track of how they are doing and advises on management. Nobody will ever know the Gorge and its plants as well as she does.
Much of Libby’s recent work has been related to whitebeams in the Avon Gorge, and she discovered an unusual hybrid whitebeam which Tim Rich named after her. She was a co-author of the 2010 monograph on Sorbus published by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and has since found another two new whitebeams in the Avon Gorge and new populations of the rarest species.
Her activities have extended to the Wye Valley and Cheddar Gorge where she has discovered three more novelties. Anyone who knows Libby will vouch for her ability to spot something unusual –if she says it is different, the results normally confirm her hunch!
Libby’s contribution has also included the provision of sound advice regarding conservation decisions affecting the rare plants that she has studied. She suggests appropriate habitat management and often supervises the work to ensure that it is done properly. She also leads educational walks and forays for scientists, conservation practitioners and the general public.