Culture

A legacy in flowers across Hull and East Yorkshire

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Today we’re looking back at one of Hull’s most brilliant botanists, Florence Eva Crackles (1918-2007). Image courtesy of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

 

Spring has officially sprung, although we’re not quite sure if the weather has received the memo.

Nevertheless, March is a month of flowers. The weather is warming up, blooms are emerging from the ground and, of course, Mother’s Day is approaching.

What better time to explore the beautiful botany and herbarium collections at Hull Museums?

The curation provides a detailed record of the stunning flora of our region. These samples were extensively created by Florence Eva Crackles (known as Eva).

Eva was born in Hull in 1918, towards the end of the First World War. She graduated with a fantastic degree in both Maths and Chemistry and went on to research her two passions, ornithology (birds) and botany (plants).

Over the years following her graduation, Eva was involved in many clubs and societies. In 1941, she joined the Hull Scientific and Field Naturalists Club, and later the Yorkshire Naturalists Union.

These allowed her to pursue her interests amongst likeminded people in Hull and Yorkshire.

It was here that she met Tom Stainforth, another acclaimed botanist whose herbarium is also part of the Hull Museums collection. They went on many excursions together before his death in 1944.

The war left Hull in a state of disarray. But from the devastation, Eva found beauty. The wartime bombing had reduced much of the city to rubble, but from these sites, wildflowers had started to grow.

By the 1950s, Eva managed to throw herself into collecting and researching the bombed areas in Hull. She had also started to write her column ‘Crackles Country’ for the Hull Daily Mail.

Quickly she became an expert in the field, giving lectures and evening classes to local people. In 1978, the University of Hull awarded her a master’s degree for her excellent work on calamagrostis stricta and calamagrostis canescens and their hybrids. This study focused on the reed grasses growing on Hull’s Leven Canal.

Towards the end of the century, Eva began to publish her work. She released The Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1990, which documented her travels spanning four decades.

She also had a keen interest in the past, researching deep into her own family history. In 2000, she even published an account of her heritage in the East Yorkshire Historian.

Her incredible life’s work has not gone unrecognised. In 1991, the botanist was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the university. This was a result of her huge contribution to botany and teaching.

She also received an MBE for her services and work to conserve protected sites in East Yorkshire.

You can see Eva’s research for yourself on request in the Hull Museums Collections. For more information, please visit the Hull Museums website.

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