Internationally renowned botanist from Suffolk, Bill Sykes, has died aged 90

The colourful launch of the Flora of the Cook Islands penned by Bill Sykes, pictured. Picture: MANAA

The colourful launch of the Flora of the Cook Islands penned by Bill Sykes, pictured. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

A renowned botanist from Suffolk who became a leading mind in the study of flora worldwide has died at the age of 90.

Bill Sykes with his wife Peggy. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA

Bill Sykes with his wife Peggy. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

Bill Sykes, who was born in Suffolk but lived in Christchurch, New Zealand, died at the Nurse Maude Hospice in Christchurch on January 5.

The celebrated plant-lover trained at the seed nursery Thompson and Morgan in Ipswich, after being inspired into the industry during a primary school competition to collect and record wild flowers and plants.

He carried out expeditions in the Himalayas in the 1950s, representing the Royal Horticultural Society to collect specimens for the British Museum, before moving to New Zealand in 1961 to join the Botany Division of the then-named Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

His expertise was included in several books, as well as being a contributing editor of the Flora of New Zealand online journal.

Bill Sykes was awarded the NZ Order of Merit in 2005 for services to botany. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA

Bill Sykes was awarded the NZ Order of Merit in 2005 for services to botany. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant


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Hie work was recognised when he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

A number of species are also named in his honour.

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Paul Masters, head of horticulture at Thompson and Morgan said: “Whilst we have a number of long-serving employees at Thompson & Morgan, none of them were here when Bill was!

“We were thrilled to discover the piece about his long and adventurous life after his horticultural training at T&M here in Ipswich.

Bill Sykes holding his book. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA

Bill Sykes holding his book. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

“The company is very proud of its expert horticultural tradition and is currently in discussion with the Royal Horticultural Society regarding the development of a joint apprenticeship scheme.”

A funeral service was held on January 9 at the John Rhind Chapel in Christchurch, and is survived by his wife Peggy Kelly, son Julian, daughter Claire, step-children Katrinka, Justin and Louise, and grand-daughter Amelia.

Speaking to New Zealand’s The Press, Julian Sykes said: “Dad was very much into adventure and we had a lot of fun together, he was keen for us to get out there and explore and experience different things.

“He was very mindful of other people’s feelings and points of view, he was a great moderator.

Bill Sykes and co-authors Colin Webb and Phil Garnock-Jones at the launch of the Flora of NZ Vol IV.

Bill Sykes and co-authors Colin Webb and Phil Garnock-Jones at the launch of the Flora of NZ Vol IV. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

“It was very good for us in terms of building relationships.”

Bill Sykes working in Nepal. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA

Bill Sykes working in Nepal. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

Bill Sykes working in Nepal. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA

Bill Sykes working in Nepal. Picture: MANAAKI WHENUA - Credit: Archant

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