Amelia Warren Griffiths raised awareness of the diversity of marine plant life in Devon. At the same time she helped make seaweed collecting and seaside holidays popular.
She was born in Pilton, North Devon. Later, in 1794 she married the Reverend William Griffiths, who became a vicar in Cornwall. He died in rather mysterious circumstances, leaving Amelia with five young children to bring up. Finally she settled in Torquay in 1829. This was an ideal place to study seaweeds.
Mrs Griffiths was a gifted scholar. She corresponded with the leading algae and seaweed experts of her time. In 1817 her reputation was so great that an eminent Swedish botanist (Carl Agardh) named a genus of red seaweeds Griffithsia in her honour.
Amelia Warren Griffiths and Mary Wyatt
Her great companion was Mary Wyatt who kept a pressed plant shop in Torquay. The two ladies co-operated in their collecting. They produced two volumes of pressed and named seaweeds found in the near Torbay titled ‘Algae Danmoniensis’. Published in 1833 each contained 50 different species. Later they produced volumes 3 and 4. Some of these rare books are now part of RAMM’s collection.
Amelia Griffiths continued to pursue her interests well into her 80s.
Almost all of the specimens in the three Griffiths volumes appear to have been collected by Amelia Griffiths herself. One notable exception is a specimen of flat winged-weed (Pterosiphonia complanata) collected by Ellen Hutchins in Bantry Bay, Ireland in 1807. Ellen Hutchins was Ireland’s first female botanist. She overcame great hardship, poverty, illness and near starvation to make botanical history before her death at just 29 years old. She collected this specimen near her home. Visit the Ellen Hutchins Festival website for more information.