2014 Winner of the Allan Mere Announced

Brian Molloy and Peter de Lange on the occasion of Peter de Lange receiving the 2006 Allan Mere Award from the New Zealand Botanical Society at the Cheeseman Conferences, Auckland, November 2006. Photo: Peter Heenan

Congratulations to Dr Brian Molloy of Riccarton, Christchurch who is the 2014 recipient of the New Zealand Botanical Society’s highest honour – the Allan Mere

Dr Brian Molloy, hugely respected member of New Zealand’s botanical community, has been successfully nominated for the 2014 New Zealand Botanical Society Allan Mere by Dr(s) Peter de Lange (Department of Conservation), Peter Heenan (Allan Herbarium, Landcare Research) and Brian’s late son Michael Molloy.

Brian Molloy has been (and continues to be) an extremely influential force behind the careers of many of New Zealand’s top botanists, conservationists and environmentalists. Of course it’s unlikely that Brian could have ever foreseen (indeed if anyone ever can) how his working life would pan out. Brian had once admitted that when he ‘grew up’ all he really wanted to be was a farmer. One thing lead to another and after a PhD examining the ecology of briar rose (Rosa rubiginosa), he started his career with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, before his skills were recognised by the then Director of DSIR Botany Division the late Dr Eric Godley, and Brian switched departments and roles.

In his early years at Botany Division Brian worked mostly on ecological surveys of reserves, and national parks, picking the Peel Range near Geraldine for his most intensive work. During his time in the field Brian encouraged and mentored many people, and became a firm friend with the late A.P. (Tony) Druce with whom he shared many memorable field trips.  Brian soon gained a reputation as a ‘tough nut’ once preferring a ‘short cut’ through a valley full of Aciphylla, so that he could get home slightly earlier for a meeting and score an ice cream on the way as well – the alternative ‘kinder’ route would have got him and his companion out at night fall and by then the ice cream shop would have been closed!

Mt Peel edelweiss (Leucogenes tarahoa) Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable. Photo: Barbara Mitcalf.

It is not clear when Brian first took a serious interest in biosystematics, though it was probably through his interests in New Zealand’s mistletoes and karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus). Whilst most of that research was never published it provided the foundation for his future work on New Zealand orchids, conifers, Melicytus and the eastern South Island limestone flora. Brian also explored the Chatham Islands, dabbled in lichens – finding a number of new species, and by the time of his retirement in 1995 had started a series of revisions leading to the publication of two new species of Leucogenes (L. neglecta, L. tarahaoa), a new conifer genus (Manoao), a new name for toatoa (Phyllocladus toatoa), and a bevy of orchids. In his field his contributions have been honoured by the genus Molloybas and kowhai Sophora molloyi.

The New Zealand Plant Conservation has long appreciated Brian’s help – he was the society's inaugural Tane Ngahere Lecturer (2008), and his contributions to plant conservation were recognised in 2006 by the Network giving him a Lifetime Achievement Award. His conservation work has been perhaps his least recognised but in many ways most important contribution – Brian was an early supporter of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII), and was instrumental in changing the way that land was covenanted. In his role as QEII rep, and then Director, Brian was at his best with a steaming cuppa either out bush or in a landowner’s house working toward a common goal of sensible, sustainable conservation. Many of our most treasured covenants came from his patient work. Brian has a well-respected ‘knack’ of calming even the most fractious person.

Loder Cup recipients together at the 2005 NZPCN conference in Christchurch, from left to right Dr Colin Meurk, Brian Molloy, David Given and Gerry McSweeny. Photo: John Sawyer

Brian also led a charmed botanical life in the field. His encouragement of others lead to the rediscovery of Geum divergens in 1992, and the rediscovery of Leptinella filiformis in 1999 – then in the throes of being declared extinct. In the case of the Leptinella, Brian’s quick work prevented its extinction for the site he found it in was up for sale, and had plants not been taken (with permission) that species would now be extinct for sure. Alas though even his famous ‘luck’ failed with searches for Trilepidea adamsii.

Aside from the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, Brian’s nomination was supported by the Auckland, Canterbury and Nelson Botanical Societies, Riccarton Bush Trust, Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, National Biodiversity Trust (UK), Landcare Research and by individual letters from Dr Ian St George (Wellington), Dr Joshua Salter (Auckland), Dr Rob Smissen (Christchurch), Dr David Galloway (Dunedin) and Dr Rod Hitchmough (Wellington).

We wish Brian all the best for the future, which we know will still be enlivened by his ongoing interest in our indigenous flora and – though he may not say this – the work of his botanical disciples.