John Dallachy (18??-1871)

Gardener at Kew mid-1840s.  Gardener to Earl of Aberdeen at Haddo House.  Manager, coffee plantation, Ceylon, 1847.  Moved to Australia 1849.  Gardener, Melbourne, Victoria, 1849.  Superintendent, Melbourne Botanic Gardens, 1849–57; curator of herbarium, 1857–61.  Nurseryman, Prahran, Victoria.  Collected plants in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales for F. Mueller.

b. Morayshire, Scotland, c. 1805/08 (but possibly 1820); d. Vale of Herbert Station, Queensland, Australia, 4 June 1871

Born in the north of Scotland, Dallachy trained as a gardener at Haddo House, Scotland, home to the Earl of Aberdeen, himself a keen botanist. The first Director of Kew Gardens, William Hooker, visited Haddo House and Dallachy took the opportunity to apply to Kew.  He was accepted and after his time at Kew returned to Haddo House as head gardener.

In 1847 Dallachy left to manage a coffee plantation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), but in 1849 he moved on to Melbourne, Australia, where he was first employed as a gardener.  In the same year he succeeded John Arthur as superintendent of the fledgling Melbourne Botanic Gardens.  He was instrumental in having Ferdinand Mueller appointed as Government Botanist in 1852.  In 1857 he became curator of the new herbarium at the Gardens, while Mueller’s role was enlarged to include the directorship. He left in 1861 to establish a nursery in Prahan, a suburb of Melbourne.  However, he was a true botanist at heart and was attracted to exploration and plant collecting.

In Victoria, Dallachy collected at Mount Macedon, Mount Disappointment, Pentland Hills, The Grampians, Ovens Valley, Mount Buffalo, along the Murray River near Wentworth, the area of Sunraysia and the Darling River, among other areas.  He sent both herbarium specimens and seeds to Mueller, and many plants subsequently grown in the Gardens were a result of Dallachy’s collecting expeditions. He also maintained his friendship with William Hooker, sending him plant specimens—often newly-discovered—for identification.

Late in 1863 he moved to Cardwell near Rockingham Bay, Queensland, and spent his remaining years as a collector, mainly for Mueller in Melbourne. Among the places that he explored were the Herbert and Stone Rivers, Stanley Plains, Hinchinbrook Island and the Mt Elphinstone Range.

Dallachy introduced a large number of Australian plants to science and horticulture.  He is considered to have been perhaps the best early botanical collector employed by the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.  The plants propagated in the Gardens formed a foundation of plantings in all major parks and gardens around Melbourne.

Dallachy died in his tent while collecting at Rockingham Bay in 1871.

He is commemorated in the name of the genus Dallachya (now Rhamnella, Rhamnaceae) and more than twenty Australian plant species, e.g. Acacia dallachiana, Austromyrtus dallachiana.

Resources

Desmond, R. (1994), Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, Taylor & Francis & The Natural History Museum, London.

George, A.S (2009), Australian Botanist’s Companion, p. 343, Four Gables Press, Kardinya, Australia.

Law-Smith, J. (1984), The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Maud Gibson Trust in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

Morrison, Crosbie (ed.) (1946), Melbourne’s Garden, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Pescott, R.T.M. (1982), The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne: A History from 1845 to 1970, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.