Born on 15 September 1951 Belfast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Educated: Portora Royal School , Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
Undergraduate: Department of Botany, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, October 1968 – June 1971.
B.Sc. (1st class hons, Botany) University of Wales (UCW, Aberystwyth), 1971.
Postgraduate research scholar: Department of Biogeography & Geomorphology, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. September 1971 – June 1975.
Ph.D. Department of Biogeography & Geomorphology, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, 1976.
Research originally intended as a study of the ecology of disjunct plants species in southern Australia, but this was impracticable and the project was altered in 1973 to the taxonomy and ecology of Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae).
Left Australia in July 1975 and lived for the next 20 years in Ireland.
August 1976 – December 1995 Horticultural taxonomist in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin.
Research interests include the Proteaceae, particularly Adenanthos, Erica and other Ericaceae in Ireland and western Europe, disjunct plant distribution patterns, the history of Irish garden plants and Irish gardens, the flora of Irish gardens, and the history of botanical exploration, bibliography and biography of Irish botanists especially William Henry Harvey (1811-1866), Patrick Browne (c.1720-1790) and John White (c.1756-1832).
Author/co-author/editor of more than 20 books, including several illustrated works about Irish native and cultivated plants done in collaboration with the renowned botanical artist, Mrs Wendy Walsh; these include the award-winning An Irish florilegium (1984, 1987), The Burren: a companion to the wildflowers of an Irish limestone wilderness (1991), and Flowers of Mayo (1995). Other works include histories of the shamrock (1991) and of Venus's flytrap (1992), the definitive history of the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin (1987), and a biography of Dr Thomas Coulter (1793–1843). More recent publications include A heritage of beauty: the garden plants of Ireland, an illustrated encyclopaedia (2000).
Publications include more than 150 research papers, notes and book reviews, and contributions to Flora of Australia (Adenanthos Labill. Proteaceae), and the new Oxford dictionary of national biography (2004).
Publications relevant to Australia are:
Disjunct plant distribution of the south-western Nullarbor Plain, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 57: 105–117 (1974).
Studies in Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae): pollen morphology. Pollen et spores 16: 389–409 (1974).
The location of collection and collectors of specimens described by Labillardière in Novae Hollandiae plantarum specimen—additional notes. Papers and proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 108: 159–170 (1974).
The collectors and type localities of some of Labillardière's "Terra van Leuwin" (Western Australia) specimens. Taxon 24: 319–336 (1975).
Antoine Guiçhenot and Adenanthos (Proteaceae) specimens collected during Baudin's Australian Expedition 1801–1803. Journal of the Society for the Bibliography of Natural History 8: 1–10 (1976).
A taxonomic revision of the genus Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae). Brunonia 1: 303–406 (1978)
Studies in Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae) II—the taxonomic status of A. velutina Meisn. reassessed. Glasra 2: 57–70 (1978).
Studies in Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae) III—additional notes on pollen morphology. Glasra 2: 71–74 (1978).
Todea barbara in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. The garden 103: 408 (1978).
With M. J. P. Scannell. C. E. H. Ostenfeld's Western Australian plants in the herbarium, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin (DBN). Glasra 2: 1–24 (1978).
Studies in Adenanthos Labill. (Proteaceae) IV—the typification of A. sericea Labill. and the nomenclature of its subspecies. Glasra 3: 9–20 (1979).
A contribution towards a catalogue of collectors in the foreign phanerogam section of the herbarium, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin (DBN). Glasra 4: 31–68 (1980).
Phytogeography of southern Australia, In A. Keast (editor). Ecological biogeography of Australia. The Hague: Junk. pp 735–759 (1981).
The natural history observations and collections made during Tobias Furneaux's visit to Tasmania (Van Dieman's Land) in 1773 with special reference to botany. Papers and proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 115: 77–84 (1981).
Australian herbarium specimens in the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin (DBN). Newsletter of the Australian Systematic Botany Society 27: 12–13 (1981).
Australian plants cultivated in England before 1788. Telopea 2: 347–353 (1983).
Botanical exploration in Australia 1606–1788; food plants and antiscorbutics. Papers of the international conference on Indian Ocean studies II (Perth 1984). Section A [pp 13] (1984).
Adenanthos x pamela (Proteaceae), a hybrid from south-western Australia. Glasra 9: 1–5 (1986).
The first Ulsterman in Botany Bay, Surgeon-General John White. The Linen Hall review 3 (2): 8–9 (incorrectly numbered 3) (1986)
From the banks of Erne to Botany Bay: John White (c.1756–1832), Surgeon-General of New South Wales. Familia 2 (3): 73–82 (1987).
John White (c.1756–1832), surgeon-general of New South Wales: biographical notes on his Irish origins. Irish historical studies 25 (100): 405–412 (1988).
Some Australasian ferns in Irish gardens. Kew magazine 5: 129–136 (1988).
Introduction to growing nickars: Glasnevin, nickars and other early tales: Seeds of Entada sp. from the Australian coast. Moorea 8: 1–5, 12–13 (1989).
'and flowers for our amusement...'; the early collecting and cultivation of Australian plants in Europe and the problems encountered by today's taxonomists, In P. Short (editor). History of systematic botany in Australasia. Melbourne: Australian Systematic Botany Society Inc. pp 285–296 (1990).
James and Thomas Drummond: their Scottish origins and curatorships in Irish botanic gardens (ca 1808–ca 1831). Archives of natural history 17: 49–65 (1990).
( Illustration by A. Farrer) Araucaria bidwillii: Andrew Petrie's pine. Kew magazine 8: 175–185, plate 185 (1991).
With D. J. Bedford . Proposal to conserve 1042 Xanthorrhoea J. E. Smith over Acoroides C. Kite (Xanthorrhoeaceae). Taxon 41: 756–758 (1992).
With D. J. Bedford . The names of the Australian grass-tree—Xanthorrhoea Sm. and Acoroides C. Kite (Xanthorrhoeaceae). Botanical journal of the Linnean Society 112: 95–105 (1993).
Searching the archives for botanists, with some Irish case histories. Huntia 9: 5–19 (1993).
Nicolaas Witsen's letter of 1698 to Martin Lister about a Dutch expedition to the South Land (Western Australia): the original text and a review of its significance for the history of Australian natural history. Archives of natural history 21: 147–167 (1994).
Adenanthos (Proteaceae). Flora of Australia 16: 314–342 (1996).
Notes on Australasian specimens in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (DBN: Herb. McNab) relating to the second edition of Aiton's Hortus Kewensis. Newsletter of the Australian Systematic Botany Society 89: 21–25 (1996).
John White's Journal of a voyage to new South Wales (London 1790): bibliographic notes. Archives of natural history 25: 109–130 (1998).
John White A. M., M. D., F. L. S. (c.1756–1832), Surgeon-General of New South Wales: a new biography of the messenger of the echidna and the waratah. Archives of natural history 25: 149–212 (1998).
With J. Parnell . An annotated bibliography of the Irish botanist William Henry Harvey (1811–1866). Archives of natural history 29: 213–244 (2002).
William McNab's herbarium in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (DBN) with catalogues of specimens [from the Royal Gardens, Kew (1805–May 1810) relating to Hortus Kewensis (edition 2); from the Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (May 1810–1818), and native plants from Scotland and England]. The Scottish naturalist 116: 43–199 (2004).
Source: pers.comm. email January 2006