Volunteer Profile: Dr. C. Mary Young

The success of the Connell Memorial Herbarium is due to many people who have donated their time and expertise. However, one person stands out: Mary Young is the herbarium’s most longstanding volunteer. Since 1975 she has spent countless hours in mounting, identifying and archiving plant specimens for the collection.

Born and educated in England, she has a B.Sc in zoology and botany and a PhD from London University. She met her future husband (Dr. Murray Young) in London and after some years, they settled in Fredericton where he taught history at UNB. They raised a family of three children in a beautiful home with a large garden filled with vegetables and native plants.

Mary concentrated on identifying plants in the herbarium’s special collections such as Dr. Taylor’s Arctic Study (1944), Dr. Wein’s Yukon and NWT Study (1972) and several other collections from Nova Scotia and PEI. For more on the challenging work with the Taylor Collection please see the previous Blog, posted June 29, 2016. She played an active role in the establishment of the Nature Trust of New Brunswick (an organization dedicated to the conservation of critical natural areas), serving as secretary, president, and past-president. With her interest in plant distribution and diversity, the conservation of plants was also of great importance. For her dedication to conservation and her role in the Connell Memorial Herbarium, Mary was recognized by an Honorary D.Sc. from UNB in 2016.

As a veteran of the herbarium, Mary knows a lot about its history and she wrote an excellent account in the booklet, “The Connell Memorial Herbarium, University of New Brunswick 1838-1985”. This document is reproduced on the CMH website under About/ History of the CMH.

Her interest in the historical aspect of the collection led her to research and write of our province’s early naturalists and botanists. Her book, “Nature’s Bounty: Four Centuries of Plant Exploration in New Brunswick” was published in 2015 by the UNB Library. The electronic version of this text is freely available from UNB: https://naturesbounty.lib.unb.ca/

Both of these publications have been illustrated with Mary’s botanical sketches and paintings. As an artist, self-taught, she has sharpened her observational skills in botany by drawing the native plants of New Brunswick.

As I write this, Mary still lives in her home surrounded by her lovely garden of perennials and native ferns. Equipped with a microscope, a dissecting kit, plant keys and access to online databases, Mary continues her work on plant identification from her home. She is currently identifying and annotating some sedges from the collection and is grateful for the online digital database and high-resolution images of the collection that help in the identification of New Brunswick plants.

This collection becomes more and more valuable as the data is available to anyone over the internet.”

Mary Young, email communication

Her thoughts on those giving their time as ‘Friends of the Herbarium’ reflect her appreciation for the many people who keep all the data, photos and specimens together:

“I think they are a remarkably dedicated group of people. It does not seem to matter whether it is field work, collecting specimens, or some routine lab job, they do it with alacrity and dedication.”

Mary Young, email communication

* The Connell Memorial Herbarium holds 205 specimens collected by C. Mary Young.


Young, C. Mary. The Connell Memorial Herbarium, University of New Brunswick 1838-1985, University of New Brunswick, 1986.

Young, C. Mary. Nature’s Bounty: Four Centuries of Plant Exploration in New Brunswick. UNB Libraries, University of New Brunswick, 2015.

C.M. Young (personal communication, November 19, 2022)

Text: Susan Belfry. Illustrations: C. Mary Young. Photo: Roger Smith.

Volunteer Profile: Gart Bishop

 Meet Gart, a renowned botanist in New Brunswick and an advocate for getting outside to learn about plants.  

Gart is an active volunteer and member of the ‘Friends of the Herbarium’.  He  has a vast knowledge of the vascular plants including the challenging group of graminoids (grasses, sedges and rushes).   Gart acquired his scientific expertise by self-study over many years of working through the plant keys, botanical surveys, attending workshops and collaborating with botanists.   

He plays a vital role in the Herbarium, leading small groups of  volunteers out to unique sites in New Brunswick to identify and collect. As of November 2022, Gart  has collected over 3,370 specimens that reside in the Connell Memorial Herbarium. He also participates in the plant identification sessions held monthly called ‘Botany Blast’, which are open to the public. Often one can find Gart helping out a newcomer in working through the plant keys.  All agree that he is a gifted  teacher with experience developed during his years as Instructor of the UNB botany fieldcourse, “NB Plants”.   He finds it exciting to take an unknown plant specimen and compare it to a range of confirmed examples in a herbarium.  “It blows the buttons off your shirt!”, he says.

Gart was born in Toronto during the 1950’s.  After high school, his interest in forestry brought him to UNB, however it was a BSc in Geology that he acquired in 1976.   He became good friends with another geology student at the time, Bruce Bagnell.   Geological work in the private industry took him to the Yukon for 3 years.   In 1982 he returned to New Brunswick and worked in Sussex as a cabinet maker.  He joined many NB nature clubs and learned as much as he could from the expert naturalists in the province.  It was during this time that Gart fell in love with plants and with a local school teacher.  He married Allison McArthur.   

By 1988  his geology friend, Bruce Bagnell had returned to NB and was also interested in plants.    They spent two summers documenting the plants in the West Quaco area.   Their detailed botanical survey and acquired knowledge led them to meet members of the NB Museum, Stephen Clayden and Don McAlpine.   Gart found botanical work with DNR for two summers and Bruce was working with Stephen Clayden on bryophytes.  Later, he and Bruce Bagnell formed a botanical survey company,  B&B Botanicals.   This successful venture provided many important plant surveys for government departments and land trusts for the next 20 years.   

Gart gives credit to those who have helped him over the years, especially the three big ones: Hal Hinds, Jim Goltz and Stephen Clayden who offered their time so freely.   He also credits the wonderful nature groups of New Brunswick and is thankful for his own love of getting outside. 

Text: Susan Belfry Photos: Robyn Shortt Date: Nov 16, 2022