Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Robert ‘Bob’ George Coveny - making a difference

by Phillip Kodela, August 2013

In 1966 Robert ‘Bob’ George Coveny began his career with plants with the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, in Sydney as a gardener and, after three years, went on to hold the substantive positions of Collector and Exchange Officer for the National Herbarium of New South Wales. He reluctantly retired on the 14 September 2012, but continues botanising with regular visits to the Herbarium - and field trips.

Bob has made a significant contribution to botany, collecting over 19,700 plant specimens (with their relevant associated details), providing an important resource for taxonomic research and other studies. His collections are cited in countless publications, and include c. 53 type specimens. An avid collector of all plants, Bob has a special interest in bryophytes, and describes with enthusiasm the occasional unusual fungus. Keeping up to date on nomenclature is reflected by Bob’s extensive library of botanical and natural history books and journals. Many colleagues have relied on Bob to check plant names for reports and scientific papers. His botanical opinions are much sought after and valued.

Bob is happy to share his wealth of knowledge and experience of plants with others. He is well known for his plant identification skills, and is often in demand for field collecting trips and vegetation surveys, as well as assistance at the plant ID counter for the NSW Botanical Information Service. Field days are rewarding and enjoyable experiences with this walking botanical encyclopaedia who every now and then likes to test you. With Bob it can take innumerable hours to move a short distance while caught up in an intensive examination of the plant diversity of an area, or he quietly wanders off only to return with another interesting find. More often than not, a targeted search finds results.

Numerous species lists have been compiled by Bob over many years, and he is a co-author of various botanical papers and reports.

Taxa named in Robert G. Coveny’s honour include

  • Coveniella Tindale (fern genus)
  • Acacia covenyi Tindale
  • Hibbertia covenyi B.J.Conn
  • Olearia covenyi Lander
  • Zieria covenyi J.A.Armstr.

As well as being generous for sharing his time on botanical matters, many colleagues have enjoyed Bob’s home grown roses and other flowers on special occasions. He is a keen gardener and bird watcher. Bob does his best to keep us informed on where to spot certain birds, like the tawny frogmouths, in the Garden.

With his sharp botanical eye and extensive collecting experience, Bob Coveny has contributed much to our understanding of plants and botanical diversity. And along the way has taught and helped many.