Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born in Nottingham, England, in 1843, died in Ashgrove, Brisbane, on 7th December 1932.
He came to Australia as a young man, in company with his brother, E.H.T. Plant. They travelled to the Palmer River goldfields and other parts of north Queensland, in the pursuit of gold and other precious metals. By 1882, Charles was the Managing Director of a mine at Kingsborough (NW of Mareeba) and a wealthy man. On 15th January 1884, he married Isabel Marion Pegus at Charters Towers, and he then resided in that town. They had five children.
He was a prominent and highly respected citizen of Charters Towers, and he engaged in many social and administrative activities - he was for instance, the president of the Philosophical Society in the town. The house that was built for him in 1890/91 was said to be "the most magnificent in Queensland".
C.F. Plant was not a botanist, nor even a recognised plant collector, but had probably been encouraged to collect some plant specimens by F.M. Bailey. Plant wrote at least eight letters to Bailey, starting in April 1890, and ending in July 1891, most of which were accompanied by specimens for identification; the letters have not survived, merely Bailey's recording of inward and outward correspondence (Queensland Herbarium archives; Bailey Book, number 1).
BRI holds 125 specimens collected by C.F. Plant. It seems that Plant supplied a rectangular label for each of his specimens with a collection number written in blue crayon (Fig. top right); someone (at Brisbane?, but not F.M. Bailey) has written at the bottom of these labels his name, the month and year when they were received, and the locality . In most cases, F.M. Bailey then wrote the name of the plant on this same label. For many of Plant's specimens however, his original label was not kept, and instead there is a label in Bailey's handwriting that routinely omits both the collection/receipt date and collection number.
Plant's specimens are from two localities only - Charters Towers, for which there are 69 specimens, most collected in January 1891 or April 1891, and a few collected during 1890. The collection numbers on the Charters Towers specimens range from 8 to 227. His only other collecting locality was "Flinders River, July 1891", for which there are 56 specimens at BRI. The collection numbers for these specimens range from 247 to 390.
Although "Flinders River" is a very vague locality, we can determine just where he was from a contemporary newspaper article. 1891 was the year of the big shearer's strike, with tensions high throughout inland Queensland and New South Wales. Troops were sent to towns and properties in wool-growing areas, to prevent the real possibility of a civil war. C.F. Plant volunteered for duty with the military in April 1891, and his company was immediately sent by train to Hughenden, and then onto Cambridge Downs (north of Richmond):
"They left Hughenden about 1st May to escort the first batch of free labourers, introduced by Mr Kilgour, to Cambridge Downs. The men ... had a rough time in returning, as they were stuck up on the banks of the Flinders by the flooded state of the river, and were short of rations for some days."
While stranded beside the river for several days, Mr Plant would have had very little to do, so it must have seemed to him an ideal opportunity to make a collection of plants for F.M. Bailey. The location was just north of Richmond, probably at 20° 41' S 143° 08' E.
Once he had dispatched the Flinders River specimens, Plant's flirtation with botany was over.
C.F. Plant moved to Brisbane in 1898, and lived in the suburb of Ashgrove for the rest of his life. He died on 7th December 1932
Source: Extracted from: Bean, A.R. (Tony) 2014 'Biographical notes on C.F. Plant (1843-1932)', Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 160 (September 2014), consult for source references.
Label Photo: Extracted from: above source