Allan Mere Award for 2010:

Dr Ross Beever (1946–2010)

Left: Dr Ross Beever, recipient of the Allan Mere Award for 2010.
Right: Rosemary Beever (Ross and Jessica’s daughter) holding the memorial book, Jessica Beever holding the Allan Mere, and Graham Beever (their son), 3 Nov 2010. Photo: © Joshua Salter.

“For more than 40 years, Ross unravelled botanical mysteries in his quest to understand and protect native plant diversity. As a mycologist and expert on northern flora he: rescued Pennantia baylisiana from possible extinction; described the link between truffle-like fungi and ground-feeding birds; and identified causal agents of disease in the iconic endemic species cabbage tree and kauri.”

The NZBS Committee is pleased to announce that Ross Beever, Landcare Research, Auckland, has been awarded the Allan Mere for 2010 posthumously. The nomination was well underway when Ross died suddenly. When asked if he would be willing to be nominated for the Award, he replied “It would be a great honour”. Ross had held Lucy Moore in great respect ever since he was a lad. The Mere was, of course, donated by Lucy.

Wellington Botanical Society nominated Ross and the proposal was seconded by Auckland Botanical Society (Ross’s home BotSoc). Four other botanical societies contributed letters of support: Waikato, Manawatu, Nelson and Otago.

A selection of comments below from the proposer and supporters indicates the breadth of Ross’s contribution to botany and the high regard in which he was held.

Ross Beever was a botanist for most of his life. Finding an undescribed, poorly known, cryptic orchid (Danhatchia australis) at the age of 16 indicates the degree of knowledge he had of our native flora as a youth. He had a particular interest in the northern flora: he had expert knowledge of the genus Cordyline; painstakingly recovered Pennantia baylisiana from the brink of extinction by coaxing production of viable seed from a female plant that was a cutting from the sole surviving wild tree; visited many islands to investigate their floras as a member of the Offshore Islands Research Group; was actively involved in restoration with Kaipara branch of Forest and Bird who are establishing Atuanui (the bush that Ross grew up next to) as a predator-free mainland island.
Ross’s major contribution to botany in his professional career was as a mycologist. He led research teams to understand the causal agents and nature of cabbage tree sudden decline and kauri dieback. His research on native truffle-like fungi led to him developing the hypothesis that these fungi have evolved to mimic the fruit of some native forest species in order to be ingested and dispersed by ground-feeding birds. Ross also conducted seminal research on fungal genetics and physiology.
Dr Beever is a skilled field observer with an extensive knowledge of native plants and fungi, and an inspiring leader of his younger colleagues.
Ross is a much respected Past-President of the Auckland Botanical Society and has continued to be very active with all aspects of our programme. We elected him an Honorary Life Member in 2007 in recognition of his contribution to New Zealand botany and Bot Soc. [The tribute to Ross prepared for that occasion may be read in Auckland Botanical Society Journal 62: 3–5, 2007]
Ross is a modest and unassuming botanist always willing to share his knowledge with professional and amateur alike.
Ross is probably most recognised by New Zealand botanists for his excellent work on the sudden decline of cabbage tree but he has ranged broadly across the field of botany with research published ranging from studies of plant macrofossils to the anatomy and systematics of native plants.
We have great respect for the work that Ross has done on plants, fungi and other organisms over his long working life. This came particularly to the fore over Cabbage Tree Decline which had and still has a very high public profile because of its effects on a species very dear to the hearts of most New Zealanders, not just botanists.
Ross has already had a long and distinguished career as a scientist, and an even longer career as a roving field botanist. His achievements are many, and widely respected, particularly his work on orchids, on cabbage and kauri trees and causes of their ill-thrift, as well as on the changes wrought by the invasion of weeds which accompany humans.
Our great pleasure in providing a letter of support for the nomination of Dr Ross Beever for the award of the Allan Mere was tempered somewhat by the terribly sad news of his passing this week, and we hope that this letter will assist in your nomination of him for the award.
Those of us who collected in the field with him were always impressed by how willing he was to share his knowledge about fungi, and indeed to talk on any subject with the same enthusiastic, yet calm and considered manner. Ross was a great photographer, and he also frequently provided advice and encouragement to our members who collected with him on the John Child Bryophyte Workshop.

Ross is the twelfth recipient of the Allan Mere since the NZBS was asked to administer the award in 1999. Indeed, Jessica Beever – President at the time – crafted the rules for the award and never considered then that the award might be given posthumously.

Jessica received the Allan Mere on Ross’s behalf at the monthly Auckland Botanical Society meeting on 3rd November 2010. Anthony Wright made the presentation.

Carol West, New Zealand Botanical Society committee member

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 101, Sept 2010.