The name Tony Wood will never be forgotten amongst CNM and NatureMapr community members.
In September of 2013, I was completely ignorant of the ACT bush and surrounds. You all know the story about me riding my mountain bike over the Canberra Spider Orchid colony and wanting to learn more about them and about orchids in general.
CNM was setup as a website in December 2013 with ACT Senior Conservation Officer, Dr Michael Mulvaney signing up almost straight away as CNM's first Administrator.
By October 2013, I had heard about this guy called Tony Wood who was an author of the Field Guide to the ACT Orchids book, highly recommended to me by several people. I bought the book basically within the first week of riding my bike over the top of the orchids. The book was such an impressive resource.
I was amazed that 2 of the authors, Jean Egan and Tony Wood, had such extensive knowledge and experience with our local orchid species. I followed it closely and it became my most trusted resource. It's pages became worn and well loved - the sign of an amazing book!
During October 2013, thanks to an email from this guy called Tony Wood who I had bugged incessantly, I was parked in a Black Mountain car park and bumped into none other than Jean Egan and the man himself. I had no idea who they were, but we exchanged greetings and I told them I was trying to find some native orchids because I rode my bike on top of some Canberra Spider Orchids recently by mistake.
I specifically remember Jean saying "Well, Aaron, you've bumped into the right guy, this is Tony Wood."
"Tony - go and sign Aaron's field guide book!!!!" Jean ordered..
It was immediately obvious that Tony and Jean really respected each other as colleagues with a common passion. To be honest, I was a little bit star struck. I couldn't believe I was in the very same carpark with the actual orchid book authors. Tony lit up with a smile and in his typical modest style, offered to sign my book - I was chuffed.
Tony provided tips and suggestions for where I should head next and I was really amazed with his generosity and willingness to share. He invited me to his regular, annual "Black Mountain Orchid Walk" which was to be held later that same month. Of course, I attended with bells on and it really changed my perception of the bush.
Tony and I became friends and by early 2014, he was Canberra Nature Map's very first Category Moderator. His curiosity and passion to help with the cause was so enlightening and it really made my job very easy:
"Aaron, I've clicked the confirm button and I've selected Caladenia actensis because it definitely is a Canberra Spider Orchid, is that what I was meant to do?"
Before long I was privileged enough to learn about the lesser known but ecologically important "Tony's Gully" orchid hotspot - An area in the ACT absolutely thriving with a wide variety of terrestrial orchid species, first documented by Tony Wood and only passed on to the most discerning of orchid hunters!
Tony became such a staunch supporter of CNM and one of our founding pioneers, helping us shape CNM into what it is today due to his dedicated efforts when we were very much an unknown entity.
As of October 2018, Tony had made:
This is a ridiculously massive effort and shows just how passionate Tony was about the natural world.
What I noticed most of all was that people, including myself, hugely respected Tony's opinion. He was CNM's original orchid moderator and his advice regarding the successful or unsuccessful identification of a sighting would ultimately fly. The other moderators respected him as did CNM's broader user base:
"Tony, what do you think?" they would say..
Fast forward to 2018 and due to my family moving house, I found myself handing my old orchid greenhouse over to Tony so that he could make use of it in amongst his impressive collection of orchids and succulents in his backyard. I remember being so pleased that the greenhouse was going to such a good home and giving him a hand to deliver it to his place and get it set up.
The greenhouse was unfortunately missing a small metal clip on one of the shelves. I contacted the manufacturer and ordered the replacement part so that I could drop it out to Tony's place and ensure the greenhouse was in good working order. I remember him being so appreciative of me being there and excited to expand his orchid and succulent collection.
Sadly, yesterday, we received news that Tony had passed away due to medical complications, but that he was with his loving family in his final moments.
When the news hit me, I shared it with my wife and I definitely shed a tear.
Tony Wood was a man who really impacted my life with his knowledge, passion and generosity.
On behalf of Canberra Nature Map and our group of NatureMapr projects, we would all like to pay our respects to the first ever NatureMapr Category Moderator, Tony Wood.
Thank you so much Tony!