Ellen Hutchins

Ellen Hutchins was born on 17 March 1785 at Ballylickey, near Bantry, Co. Cork. Her parents were Thomas Hutchins (d. 1787) and Elinor Hutchins (née Hutchins) (d. 1814).  Ellen was one of 21 children, of whom two daughters and four sons survived to adulthood. Ellen was educated at home as was common, particularly for women, at the time. She suffered from poor health and died on 9 February 1815 aged 29 at Ardnagashel, near Bantry. She is buried in Garryvurcha churchyard, Bantry: the grave was unmarked but a modern plaque has now been erected. An annual festival is held in her memory at Bantry.

Ellen was a cryptogamic botanist, who collected and catalogued over 1,100 species of plants in her area. She was generous with her knowledge and sent preserved specimens as well as paintings of plants to botanists in England and Ireland. Naturalists Lewis Weston Dillwyn and Joseph Woods visited her in county Cork. Plants which she identified are included in James T. Mackay’s Flora Hibernica (1836).[1] Hutchins is also mentioned 37 times in Dillwyn’s British Confervae.[2] She sent many items to the English botanist Dawson Turner, whose book Muscologiae Hibernicae Spicilegium (1804) on Irish mosses included specimens contributed by Hutchins.[3]

Her rare finds included lichens, and three species are called after her: Lecania hutchinsiae, Pertusaria hutchinsiae, Enterographa hutchinsiae; Seaweeds. Two marine algae are named in her honour: Cladophora hutchinsiae (Dillwyn) Kützing (= Conferva hutchinsiae Dillwyn), Dasya hutchinsiae Harveyu; Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) – two species still carry her name, in both their Latin and their common names: Hutchins Hollywort (Jubula hutchinsiae (Hooker W.J) Dumortier) and Hutchins Pincushion (Ulota hutchinsiae (Sm.) Hammar). A great many more plants were named after her, but their classification and so their names have changed as more has been learnt about them. There are at least seventeen of the marine algae, lichen and bryophyte Type Specimens at the Natural History Museum, London with her name on them, and the Cladophora hutchinsia (seaweed) type specimen at Trinity College, Dublin was collected by her. The genus Hutchinsia (Brassicaceae) was named in her honour, but although now officially known as ‘Hornungia’, it sometimes known as ‘Hutchinsia’.[4]  

She left most of her collection to Dawson Turner. Her specimens and records are still preserved in his herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, London. Hutchin’s specimens are now at Trinity College, Dublin; the Natural History Museum, London; the Linnean Society, London (Smith collection); and the New York Botanical Garden (William and Lynda Steere Herbarium). A few of her specimens are in the UCC Curatorial Collections. These are currently being catalogued.

Ellen Hutchins never published on her own behalf, but she did allow her name to be associated with some specimens. For example, Dawson Turner included seven of her drawings in his work Fuci, sive, Plantarum Fucorum generi a botanicis ascriptarum icones descriptiones et historia [‘Fuci, or, Coloured figures and descriptions of the plants referred by botanists to the genus Fucus’].[5] A search for ‘Hutchins’ produces seven results in volume one of this work;[6] 30 in volume two;[7] 30 again in volume three;[8] and 17 in volume four.[9]


Dublin: Representative Church Body Library, Ms. O. 15 A memoir of the life of Ellen Hutchins (died 1815) of Bantry, by (?) Lady Barbara Stephen, 1943


Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland (London: Burke, 1912), 338–9

Chesney, Helena C. G., ‘The young lady of the lichens’, Stars, shells and bluebells: women scientists and pioneers (Dublin: Women in Technology & Science, 1997), 28–39

Dillwyn, Lewis Weston, British Confervae; or, Colored figures and descriptions of the British plants referred by botanists to the genus Conferva (London: W. Phillips, 1809) https://archive.org/details/britishconferv00dill

Hutchins, Madeline, Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815): Botanist of Bantry Bay (Bantry: Ellen Hutchins Festival with the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society, 2019). Available to purchase from https://www.ellenhutchins.com/store/

Lucey, John and Madeline Hutchins, ‘Ellen Hutchins (1786-1815): botanist and artist’ (online at https://www.ireland.anglican.org/cmsfiles/pdf/AboutUs/library/Archive/2016/Ellen_Hutchins_a_Botanist.pdf, accessed 16/07/3029)

Lett, H. W., ‘Census report on the mosses of Ireland’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 32, Sect.  B (1914–16), 70–71

Lyne, G. J., ‘Lewis Dillwyn's visit to Kerry 1809’, Journal of the Kerry Archaeological Society 15-16 (1983), 86–7

Lyne, G. J. and M. E. Mitchell, ‘A scientific tour through Munster: the travels of Joseph Woods, architect and botanist, in 1809’, North Munster Antiquarian Journal 27 (1985), 27

Lyne, G. J., ‘Lewis Dillwyn's visit to Waterford, Cork and Tipperary in 1809’, Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society 91 (1986), 94

Lunney, Linde, ‘Hutchins, Ellen’, in J. McGuire and J. Quinn (eds), Dictionary of Irish Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). (online at (http://dib.cambridge.org/viewReadPage.do?articleId=a4175; accessed 16/07/2019)

Mitchell, M. E. (ed.), Early observations on the flora of Southwest Ireland: selected letters of Ellen Hutchins and Dawson Turner 1807-1814. Occasional papers (National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin), 12 (Dublin: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, 1999)

Ross, Helena, ‘Ellen Hutchins, botanist’, in C. Mollan, W. Davis, and B. Finucane (eds), Some people and places in Irish science and technology (Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1985), 26–7

Secord, Anne, ‘Hutchins, Ellen’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online at https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/59319; accessed 16/07/2019)

Turner, Dawson, Fuci, sive, Plantarum Fucorum generi a botanicis ascriptarum icones descriptiones et historia (London: John and Arthur Arch, 1808-1819). 4 vols.



[1] Online at https://archive.org/details/florahibernicac00mackgoog

[2] https://archive.org/details/britishconferv00dill/page/n14/mode/2up?q=hutchins

[3] Linde Lunney, ‘Hutchins, Ellen’, Dictionary of Irish Biography. Turner’s book is online at https://archive.org/details/muscologiaehibe00turngoog.

[4] For more about Ellen, her life and botanical work, see http://www.ellenhutchins.com/.

[5] Online at https://archive.org/search.php?query=Turner%20and%20fuci.

[6] https://archive.org/details/b2190246x_0001/page/152/mode/2up?q=hutchins

[7] https://archive.org/details/b2190246x_0002/page/n4/mode/2up?q=hutchins

[8] https://archive.org/details/b2190246x_0003/page/n4/mode/2up?q=hutchins

[9] https://archive.org/details/b2190246x_0004/mode/2up?q=hutchins


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