Saturday 23 July 2016

A Passion for Eryngium campestre

"Dad looking at his beloved
Eryngium campestre"
Image courtesy of Helen Brown
A few weeks ago, we received an email from Helen Brown, informing us of the sad loss last month of her father, botanist Mervyn Brown. We'd like to extend our sympathies to Helen and her family at this sad time, and also tell you a little about her father's contribution to botanical conservation.

Mervyn's particular passion was the conservation of Eryngium campestre (Field Eryngo), a distinctive plant which is listed as Critically Endangered on the GB Red List (2005); the England Red List (2013) tells us that there are fewer than 30 locations for this plant in England.

Helen very kindly sent us these words about her father:

"Dad was a keen naturalist all his life. He was the chairman for North Kent Wildlife Preservation Society for many years, and led many walks. He had excellent botanical knowledge, especially on grasses. 

"He was in the Kent Field Club, also leading walks and giving talks.  He worked with Eric Philp collecting data for his Atlas of the Kent Flora

Eryngium campestre
Image courtsey of John Crellin/Floral Images
"He had a special passion and affinity for Eryngium campestre, lovingly protecting a single rare plant which grew in Darenth, the village where dad lived as a boy. Over the years it flourished into almost 200 plants, with dad fending off rabbit attacks, advancing scrub, and competing vegetation. 

"He ended up quite an expert on this species. He has lots of notes on it; enough to write a book on it I should think, along with his many emails to fellow enthusiasts. I understand some of his views were quite left field. 

"He ended up looking after plants on four sites in Kent, and advising on those further afield. Lou, his partner, remembers driving with him down to Hampshire just to put a bit of silver sand around a plant that had been discovered at the roadside there. 

Eryngium campestre
Image courtsey of John Crellin/Floral Images
"He was even captured on Bing, (like Google Earth) when they made satellite maps, peering at the Eryngium campestre. I think I still have that image somewhere. 
What will become of the plants now? 

"Dad's eulogy contained several Eryngium references, and his wicker casket was garlanded with the more common Eryngium". 

We are very grateful to Helen for sharing this glimpse into her father's botanical life and his passion for Eryngium campestre. She tells us that many of her father's friends from the wider botanical community have already been in touch to offer their condolences and share their memories of Mervyn. If you would like me to pass on any such message to Helen, you can email me at

BSBI was also very moved by Helen telling us that a collection for donations to the society had been made at her father's wake. We'd like to thank her for this very kind gesture and for the donation, which will be used to support our charitable activities.   

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