Dr. William Earl Phillips, 70, Memphis, Tennessee USA, died
September 9, 2009. He is best known in the water gardening world
for his extraordinary work with Anecphya, the Australian
subgenus of Nymphaea.
Andre and William at an Anecphya
pond in Memphis
Some years ago, William fell in love with the N. giganteas
in cultivation in the US, the pale blue to white 'Albert de Lestang',
a wonderful blue regularly propagated by Rich Sacher and the
pink 'Neorosea' collected by Walter Pagels. He proved to be very
adept at growing this notoriously tricky group of waterlilies.
William and Australian collector André Leu developed
a productive intercontinental partnership. Andre shared seeds
from his collecting trips in Australia with a number of Anecphya
aficionados in the US including William. While others struggled,
the resulting seedlings thrived in Memphis. The stunning deep
pink cultivar named 'Andre Leu' (now known to be a selection
of N. carpentariae) was probably the most exciting of
'Andre Leu' >
In 2002, William Phillips sent friends the first pictures of
his new hybrid as a greeting. Even though he included some information
about the parents, we were all probably more taken by its beauty
than by the prospect that it would make history. It proved to
be the first documented hybrid between subgenera of Nymphaea
ever, a feat previously considered impossible. The pod parent
was N. 'Andre Leu' of the Australian subgenus Anecphya
and the pollen parent was the white form of N. colorata
of the subgenus Brachyceras. At the insistence of friends,
he named it N. William Phillips.
N. 'William Phillips'
Profile - William Phillips, The Miracle Man
William had a heart condition from birth. In spite of that,
and complications resulting from it, he attended the University
of Mississippi and Tulane Medical School. Unable to practice
private medicine because of his health he earned a Masters degree
in public health from UCLA, spending 10 years in the public health
field and teaching. His spare time was spent learning about the
subtropical plants in various areas.
Prepared for forced early retirement, he participated as a
"guinea pig" in endless research studies on devices
and medications under development throughout the world. He did
manage to travel extensively in Europe, the Mediterranean area,
the Middle East, South and Central America and Hawaii. He did
it at his pace and would remain longer in an area if he became
tired. He concentrated on the conservatories, gardens, and the
flora of the area on each trip.
In 1996, after several months on life support, William received
a heart transplant. The transplant team called him their "Walking
Miracle" and monitored not just his health but his life
at regular intervals. They encouraged him to do whatever in life
made him happy. For William that was growing and enjoying his
Section of William's Anecphya
Andre Leu wrote: I was extremely saddened to learn about
the death of William Phillips. I found him to be a most wonderful
and generous man and it was a great honour to have known him.
He will be immortalised as the first person to do a scientifically
verified intersubgeneric Nymphaea hybrid. It is great
to see that he started a trend in this direction.
William always thought that this was his greatest achievement
until his doctors stated that being alive was his greatest achievement.
He not only managed to outlive the prognosis he was given, but
he had a very rewarding and productive life.
Phillips' Miracle Plant
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