In Memory of three Life Members

By APS NSW Members Merle Thompson & Wendy Grimm

We are always sad to hear of the passing of one of our members, especially when it is a Life Member we know who has done much to support the Society and/or to further the cause of knowledge about, growing or conserving our Australian flora.

We share tributes to the following three members who have passed away this year. We were also recently informed that Audrey Taggart recently passed away, and we will share some a tribute next month. 

Edna Devlin, Illawarra Group

Edna Devlin, the Illawarra Group

 Edna died in March at the age of almost 98.  Her daughter Wendy wrote:

The Society meant so much to Mum and she attended with various friends for about fifty years.

She loved the guest speakers, the bush walks and excursions.  She took her role as, briefly, treasurer and for a long time, as publicity officer which involved writing a regular bulletin for the local ABC.

You’ll be pleased to know that Sue and I have inherited Mum’s interest in plants and I am getting more and more interested in native plants. Mum’s legacy lives on.

Mum also volunteered at the Grevillea Park in Bulli.  She was always involved in so much.

Her legacy will live on in us, in the family home that we’re keeping and in the beautiful gum and other trees that she planted.

Tribute written by Merle Thompson OAM, APS NSW Membership Officer


Ron Davies, Macarthur Group

Ron Davies, the Macarthur Group.
Ron Davies, the Macarthur Group.

 Ron and his wife, Robin, were joint Life Members.  They were recognised for their very long-standing work with Macarthur Group and with several other organisations in the area.  Robin died in June 2020.  

On 2 August Kevin Matthews advised that Ron had passed away the previous evening.  He was aged 93.

Kevin wrote:  He was well and active, particularly with the Wollondilly Community Nursery right up to a couple of weeks ago.”  

Back in March Kevin wrote:  Ron is well and keeping active at the community nursery and now also plays bowls.”  However, he wasn’t coping with emails which had been Robin’s province, not his, so we devised other ways to keep him informed about APS NSW.

Tribute written by Merle Thompson OAM, APS NSW Membership Officer

Jennifer Lewis, North Shore Group

Jennifer Lewis, North Shore Group

 Jenny Lewis was an APS NSW life member (2005) and very long term North Shore Group member. It is with great sadness that we advise members of the death of Jenny Lewis in September 2023. 

The early days

Jenny was a member of SGAP and later the Australian Plants Society from around 1981. Jenny had a long interest in native plants. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Sydney University in 1953 with a major in Physics and one year of botany. Inspired by a course in native plant identification in 1960, Jenny’s hobby and lifetime passion for the identification, collection, preservation and photography of native plants began. 

Bush Regeneration

In 1987 Jenny started a bush regeneration group in Beecroft Reserve at a time when local government had not got around to addressing the need for active management of the bushland under its control. Jenny was an early member of the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators and, as one of the pioneers of bush regeneration, helped many early bush regenerators with plant identification and advice. As a member of the Beecroft-Cheltenham Civic Trust’s Parks subcommittee Jenny promoted appreciation of Beecroft and Chilworth Reserves and Pennant Hills Park, now Lane Cove National Park, and served on the Hornsby Council Bushland Management Advisory Committee 1989-1999.

 Jenny was instrumental in the regeneration of Observatory Park, Beecroft which she documented (2001) “Regeneration of remnant Blue Gum High Forest following the cessation of mowing” Cunninghamia 7(2): 173-182. 

Rae Rosten recalled My earliest recollection of Jenny was working with others to remove Trad behind her property when she was fighting the construction of the freeway.  And later, there were lots of afternoon teas in my kitchen after Herbarium excursions. 

Legacy of Conservation

Jenny’s advocacy during this period led to the realigning of the path of the proposed M2 motorway to retain a quality bushland corridor between Pennant Hills Golf Course and Cheltenham Oval. Now, in 2023, as part of the NSW Government’s ‘Places to Roam’ – Regional Trails program, there are plans to refresh and expand the Beecroft-Cheltenham Bushland Wayfinding Signage to ‘raise the community’s awareness of the local bushland, its natural values, and how it is regionally connected’.


Sheila Woods recalls that:

Jenny shared her knowledge and expertise with so many.  She certainly was a big influence for me. Jenny was a very good teacher and over a four-year period we learned a lot about weeding the bush from her. After the M2 was a fait accompli Jenny turned her botanical skills to collecting specimens for a herbarium for Hornsby Shire.” 

Plant Identification and Herbaria

Jenny’s expertise in plant identification expanded from compiling species lists for Observatory Park and Beecroft Reserve to a comprehensive herbarium of over 350 species in 205 genera of plants of the Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden (KWG) at St Ives from 1988 to 1997. At KWG she was assisted with identification of reeds and sedges by Val Williams (APS NSW president 1998-2000) and with identifying grasses by Pat Pike. 

Robert Failes (Life Member, 2022) recalls:

 Jenny and I were contemporaries at Sydney University in the late 1940’s, studying in different scientific areas, but both members of Sydney University Musical Society. On my retirement, when I joined the North Shore Group of Australian Plants Society, I was delighted to meet up with Jenny again, this time with a joint interest in native plants. My knowledge of these plants though was minimal while hers was humongous! Her speciality was ‘Ferns’ and later when I became involved with our Walks & Talks Program it was great having her lead the program on this topic.

For many years Jenny conducted walks to show visitors the wildflowers at the Ku-ring-gai ‘Festival of Wildflowers’ at St Ives in spring. Sue Fredrickson recognised Jenny as ‘an inspiring lady’ and has followed in Jenny’s footsteps with walks at the festival.

Then just when you might think Jenny would slow down, she started compiling the Herbarium of the Hornsby Shire in 1997. In this endeavour she had active support from other keen plant identifiers in the North Shore Group who accompanied her on many field trips – notably Ross Doig (Life Member 1999), Pat Pike (Life Member 2015), Noel Rosten, Tony Lewis, Max Gregory and Barry Lees (Life Member 2019). The aim was to collect all indigenous native plants in the Hornsby Shire and have them available as a pressed collection in Hornsby Library.

Max Gregory recalls:

When I joined the Hornsby Herbarium Group I was fascinated by the depth of knowledge and skills. But everyone deferred to Jenny. Jenny’s academic training was in Physics. She applied rigorous scientific technique to her work. We would all go out for the day and the team would compile a plant list. Anything at all in doubt Jenny would take home and thoroughly check or in some occasions even work out what it was. Even the great Ross Doig would accept the occasional correction by Jenny. Jenny always shared her knowledge and was happy to discuss subtleties. A wonderful human being from whom we all learnt so much.

By December 2004 the Herbarium folders were available in the reference section of Hornsby Library for plant identification and research purposes. They were used by Council Officers, Bushcare trainers and volunteers, school children, tertiary institutions and the general public.

Helen Ray recalls I was on very few Herbarium outings with Jenny.  I just remember being amazed at her ability to just stand there and quickly identify dozens of native plants around her. 

Vegetation species lists were made of 80 sites across various seasons and over 900 species have been collected and recorded in Hornsby Shire. Jenny’s scientific licence from the National Parks & Wildlife Service permitted the team to collect native plant specimens in the Shire. Vegetation lists were sent to the National Herbarium of NSW at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Wildlife Atlas for NP&WS (at their request). This resulted in increasing the known species diversity, the range of many species and the location of populations of threatened species that previously had not been recorded in Hornsby Shire.

Tony Maxwell observed that a monumental series of plant lists from bushwalks in northern Sydney was created by Lewis/Doig/Rosten/Pike/Lees and others. All these people are giants in our Society – nobody told them to do this work, they did it because they were interested.

Advances in digital technology and library grants have enabled the collection of scans/photos of live/pressed plants to be made available to the public through the Internet. The online Herbarium can be accessed at www.hornsby.nsw.gov.au by following the links to the library, eLibrary and the Hornsby Herbarium.

Jenny was an active member of North Shore Group who gave talks to other APS groups and community and conservation groups such as the Hornsby Conservation Society. Jenny received the North Shore Group Melba Dyer Award in 1999 and was recognised with Life Membership of APS NSW in 2005. She was active in North Shore Group’s ‘Walks & Talks’ program, where she specialised in native ferns and put her wonderful collection of slides of ferns and other native plants to good use. 

Joanne Caldwell provided a copy of Jenny’s life membership write-up in Native Plants for New South Wales (July 2005), adding I had great respect for Jenny.  Likewise for all the other North Shore members who have taught me so much.

Barry Lees recalls: 

I joined the Herbarium Group in 2002. I often went to Jenny’s place to help her assemble the A3 blue folders of pressed plants. Her dining room was piled with folders, A3 archival quality paper and plastic sleeves. Plants being pressed added to the clutter. Jenny organised weekly plant surveys for the Group until 2013, when she found the physical demands too much. From about 2002, she managed the enormous task of having all the pressed plants digitally scanned and custom software written so that the images could be made available to the public. This was our online Herbarium that is still available. What a huge legacy she has left behind!

Wendy Grimm: My favourite memory is of Jenny at Anglesea Heath in Victoria and the Grass Tree Rest Centre, Seymour. Jenny, Pat Pike and I were returning from the 2009 national conference, Geelong. We indulged our love of orchids and other small plants for too long and we had to drive an extra 150km to secure beds for the night.  My photo captured Jenny’s enjoyment of the moment, her serious approach to photography and her love of collecting plants for identification. Jenny gave a subsequent talk to our group on her findings at those locations.

This tribute is in memory of Jenifer Lewis, a well-respected, inspiring member who made an immeasurable contribution to our knowledge of local native plants.  A wonderful human being from whom we all learnt so much.

Compiled and written by Wendy Grimm on behalf of the North Shore Group 

Commemorative Plaques for Life members

Recently Harbour Georges River group unveiled plaques commemorating life members who had passed; Graham and Margaret Walters, Hugh Stacy and Kyrill Taylor. A lovely example of a tribute. 

images supplied by Harbour Georges River Group