• In the early 1960’s, during a botanical excursion arranged for visitors to Hobart, Winifred met Dennis Morris (then working for the State Department of Agriculture). They soon discovered that they shared a keen interest in the local flora and agreed to collaborate on the Student’s Flora of Tasmania. In time they became the closest of friends.
• The Endemic Flora of Tasmania (published 1967–1978) was an ambitious joint project between Winifred and the acclaimed Australian artist Margaret Stones. It was conceived and sponsored by Lord Talbot de Malahide. Lord Talbot was an avid collector and gardener who cultivated many Tasmanian plants on his estate in Ireland. Margaret Stones was based at Kew and used fresh flowering and fruiting material. Some of this material came from Lord Talbot’s estate but much of it came from Tasmania. Winifred wrote the descriptive and ecological notes that accompanied each illustration. She also verified many of the specimens sent to Kew. The paintings and the proofs were sent to Winifred for comment. Sadly Lord Talbot died when only four of the volumes were completed and the work was seen to its completion by his sister, the Hon. Rose Talbot. The Endemic Flora of Tasmania proved to be a great success and increased interest in and knowledge of Tasmania’s endemic plants.
‘Lord Talbot blew into the department when we were in the huts…he was a very keen gardener and used to grow Tasmanian plants in his garden in Ireland and conceived of the idea of having a record in the form of paintings. And he met Miss Stones at Kew and asked her to do the series of illustrations of the Tasmanian endemics, and then decided he would publish in book form and asked me to do the descriptions.’
‘He was a Baron, 13 th Baron…you called him Lord Talbot until you got to know him and then I called him Milo, an extraordinary name but it’s a family name. It always reminded me of the evening meal, you know, we all drank Milo.’
• In 1966 Winifred retired from the Botany Department and was appointed Honorary Research Fellow in Botany. She maintained this link and was an Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Plant Science in 1998. After retirement she continued to work on the Student’s Flora, being based at the Tasmanian Herbarium where she was (and still is!) an Honorary Botanist.
• Winifred’s mother died in 1962 and she nursed her father at home until his death in 1967.
• In 1967 Winifred submitted her published work to the University of London for a DSc degree which was conferred in 1968.
• Winifred considered moving back to England to live in Kew but was detained as she had started working on the orchids for the Student’s Flora. This delayed her return until eventually the spiraling costs of housing in London made the notion an impossibility.
Christmas cards from Kew Gardens Director and staff to Curtis:
Palm House in snow (above) and Japanese
• In retirement, Winifred maintained her close links with many amateur groups. Indeed she is still the Patron of the Field Naturalists Club of Launceston. Whilst her formal teaching duties had ceased, she was always ready to help anyone with an interest in plants and a desire to learn.
Billy used by Winifred in the field.
Collecting case used by Winifred in the field. Descriptions in the Student’s Flora of Tasmania were written from fresh material collected by Winifred and others.
Winifred’s cut throat razor used for sectioning plants.
Forests and Flowers of Mt Wellington Tasmania ,
written by Winifred Curtis and published
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1965. enlarge
Winifred at work in the new herbarium, 1977
Winifred Curtis and Margaret Stones (illustrator of the Endemic Flora of Tasmania) standing either side of a specimen of Richea ×curtisiae at the Hartz Mountains in the 1980’s.
In the field - Hartz Mountains in the 1980’s.
Dennis Morris (who assisted in the completion of the Students Flora) and Winifred Curtis at the Tasmanian Herbarium.
'Student flora of Tasmania' with printing block
Winifred Curtis sitting for portrait by
George Davis, September 1987.
Portrait of Winifred Curtis by George Davis, 1987
oil on canvas (courtesy of TMAG)
Cap and gown worn by Winifred to receive her honorary DSc from the University of Tasmania in 1987.
Illustration of Richea ×curtisiae by Margaret Stones, one of five plants named in Winifred’s honour, from Part IV of The Endemic Flora of Tasmania. enlarge