Born 19th June 1841 near Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland and died in Brisbane 26th January 1916.
James (Jas.) Keys emigrated to Australia from Ireland in 1873 and worked as a school teacher in various state schools in south-east Queensland. Civil servant records show that on 10th October 1873 Keys was appointed as a teacher. He rose to the position of head master at Bundaberg Central Boys School between July 1887 and 1898. In July 1900 Keys was appointed head teacher at Norman Park School in Brisbane. He retired from public service about 1904. He was a good friend of F.M. Bailey because of his special interests in Queensland flora. In 1876 he is recorded collecting plants near Ipswich, Queensland.
He made important, pioneering collections of plants between 1880 and 1914 at Mt Perry, Bundaberg, Bustard Heads, Burrum River, Eurimbula, Pine Mountain, Lake Cootharaba, Blackall Range and Norman Creek. There are about 600 of his collections in the Queensland Herbarium, however, many of his specimens of lichens and mosses were sent to specialists in Europe by Bailey. Keys was interested in uses of plants and documented aboriginal names in the Mt Perry district, as listed in the ‘Queensland Flora'. Bailey encouraged him to compile a comprehensive collection from the Upper Burnett and Mt Perry (in the Wide Bay district) and this culminated in the first local checklist of plants in Queensland from outside of the Brisbane area.
James Keys was a keen member of the Queensland Royal Society and a Fellow of the Linnean Society, London.
Boronia keysii Domin, Hoya keysii F.M.Bailey (now H. australis R.Br.) and Siphonodon australis var. keysii F.M.Bailey (now S. australis var. australis ) were named for Keys.
Bailey, F.M. 1884. A contribution towards a flora of Mount Perry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 1: 61-76.
Forster, P.I. 1989. James Keys F.L.S. and his contribution to early botanical exploration in south-east Queensland. Queensland Naturalist 29: 116-122.
Keys, J. 1886. A contribution to the Flora of Mount Perry. Part II. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 2: 41-55.
Source: Queensland Herbarium Records (1856-1988) and pers.
comm. Helen Cole (1988). Published in Port Curtis
District Flora and Early Botanists by G.N. Batianoff and H.A. Dillewaard
(1988), Botany Branch, Queensland Herbarium; and pers. comm.
Paul I. Forster (2005) , Queensland Herbarium, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong, Qld 4066 .