1950 ~ 2005
Ron Tunstall was born at Wollongong and grew up in the Illawarra district of New South Wales where he developed a keen interest in natural history. He studied at university to become a teacher and worked in the Illawarra until he retired, except for a short period in Sydney and about two years in Papua New Guinea. On retirement he moved to Wauchope in the Hastings area of the mid north coast of New South Wales. Ron was fiercely loyal to anything pertaining to the Illawarra area and after retirement extended this loyalty to include Wauchope and the Hastings area.
Ron was a dedicated naturalist who was blessed with a discerning eye. Although he was interested in a range of plants and animal groups, native orchids were his primary focus and he travelled far and wide over Australia to see them in their natural habitat.
Ron was also a keen photographer and he amassed a prodigious collection of slides, taken not only in the wild but also in private collections and at orchid society meetings.
Ron was a true character of the orchid world. His personality was intense, sometimes off-putting and he was dogmatic and persistent in pursuit of a goal. Once on a subject he pursued it to the end, considering all possibilities and compiling detailed lists of queries that needed to be answered before he was satisfied. His persistence is well exemplified in his pursuit of knowledge about the type localities of native orchids and which species was the best fit for any taxon. Detailed consideration of the manuscripts of early botanists was often followed by trips to the area looking at the range of species growing there and making decisions about which taxa were the best fit. This would then be followed by discussions with botanists, whom he regularly challenged about their views, and he was often right.
Once into a particular group of orchids he followed up all leads, no matter how tenuous.
Over the years he became a valuable mine of information which he imparted freely to others. He discovered numerous new orchid species during his travels and he was instrumental in making many collections for the herbarium at Canberra, some of which have been used as types. One species, Bunochilus (Pterostylis) tunstalli has now been named in his honour and a Diuris that he found recently will also be named after him.
Ron had an unusual species concept and believed that there are numerous unnamed species out there that the botanists have overlooked. One could say he was the ultimate “splitter” but then again he did find many new species and with modern molecular studies turning up genetic anomalies in what appear to be well established species, perhaps he was correct.
Ron Tunstall died suddenly in the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle on the 29th October 2005.
Ron’s legacy will endure in his slides, in the specimens he collected for CANB, and in the memory of his friends. In leaving his estate to The Australian Orchid Foundation, Ron’s desire to promote and conserve his beloved native orchids will be continued.
He will be missed.
John and Judy Riley
A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by the Directors of The Australian Orchid Foundation.