The Don McNair Herbarium

One man's passion

Donal McNair with one of his plants

Have you ever wandered around the bush, admiring the plants but had no idea what you were looking at? Well one Whitebridge resident's curiosity for identifying plant species has led him to find his life's grand passion.

Donald McNair's fascination for plants was nurtured in his family's vegetable patch at their Mayfield home.

However, with a basic education he was unable to pursue his interest in plants as a profession. Instead he became an auto electrician and mechanic. But he never lost his passion for botany.

And for the next five decades he collected plant samples – many from his numerous pilgrimages into central Australia.

In all he has collected 12,000 plants, which he has donated to the University of Newcastle to create a herbarium for staff and students to use.

Don believes his collection will be vital in recording environmental and plant changes, particularly in response to climate change.

"In a way I've been collecting a history – a history of flora in Australia and in the Hunter region."

Don also wants to ensure that future generations are given the opportunity to share his passion for botany. To do so, he donated $30,000 to the University of Newcastle to establish a scholarship for students studying Biological Science, Environmental Science or Natural History Illustration.

Don's herbarium is now being added to by other collectors as well as staff and students. If you would like to contribute contact the University of Newcastle Foundation.