Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Edwin Ashby, estate agent and naturalist, was born of Quaker stock on 2 November 1861 at Pleystowe Capel, Surrey, England; he died at Wittunga, SA, on 8 January 1941
He was the son of James Ashby, tea merchant, and his wife Eliza. A delicate child, he had little formal education but was encouraged in his natural history interests by his parents, both critical field naturalists. He worked for his father, then visited Australia for his health in 1884-87 and migrated to Adelaide in 1888 with his elder sister. On 6 May 1890 he married Esther Maria Coleman; they had two sons and two daughters.
Ashby was an avid collector of birds, butterflies and other insects, shells (particularly chitons) and plants. A critical observer, with infectious enthusiasm, he wanted to share each new discovery. He published over eighty papers in ornithology alone, and named or discovered several new birds. But his most outstanding contributions were on chitons, recent and fossil, on which he was a world authority, discovering over twenty new taxa. His collection, presented to the South Australian Museum in 1932, was considered the best of its kind.
His Garden, at Wittunga, began as a formal English gentleman's garden, but as Ashby became increasingly fascinated by Australian native flora, he specialized in its cultivation, collecting numerous plants from the bush throughout Australia. He experimented with methods of cultivation and evolved the 'Ashby system' of watering, giving plants a soaking every three to four weeks instead of the usual light surface watering. Speaking and writing often, he introduced many Australians to their unique flora. A 1934 bushfire burnt part of Wittunga garden, gutted the house and destroyed many of his records and collections. Fortunately many bird-skins and chitons were in the Museum, but material burnt included some 'type' specimens. At 73 he could not rebuild these, but instead enlarged his horticultural interests by establishing an Australian native-plant nursery; over 300 tried and proven species were offered cheaply. An enlightened conservationist, he worked to preserve wildlife reserves such as Flinders Chase, and was a prime mover in securing Chauncy's Line Reserve.
He died at Wittunga on 8 January 1941, and was interred in the Friends' Burial Ground, West Terrace, Adelaide. His daughter Alison Ashby was a distinguished collector and painter of Australian flora. His garden has been preserved by the gift of his son Keith and his family, who in 1965 donated 35 acres (14 ha) to the Board of Governors of the Botanic Garden, Adelaide.
Source: Extracted from: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ashby-edwin-5066
Portrait Photo: Extracted from: Google Images.
Data from 1,208 specimens in the SA Herbarium