The botanist and field biologist Kåre Arnstein Lye, born in Bryne, southwestern Norway on March 9, 1940, died in his home on March 24, 2021. With him we have lost not only a great botanist, and a helpful colleague, but also a good friend.
Developing his university's botany education
After his entry exams in 1959, Kåre found his way to the University of Oslo until he in 1968 settled in the small town of Aas as a newly employed scientific assistant at the Department of Botany at the former Agricultural University of Norway (NLH). Some years later he created his own local paradise in the abandoned old crocery store next to Kroer church where he spent the rest of his life in a rural environment with his family.
Professor Eilif Dahl, a former leading and socially conscious Norwegian ecologist, acknowledged Kåre's impressive species knowledge and commitment to work, and succeeded in financing a new associate professor position in which Kåre was appointed in 1973. This happened during a restructuring and expansion phase at the university when the study period was extended from 3 to 5 years, the number of students sharply increased, and the study program Ecology and Nature Management was formed. As a permanent employee, Kåre designed the course catalogue in botany, which he continued to develop after being promoted to professor in 1994 and until he retired in 2010. As a professor emeritus, he was active in the service of species diversity until his death.
Superb at species diversity
Kåre had a unique ability to see and recognize species, he enthusiastically shared and tirelessly expanded our species knowledge by revising difficult but important species groups, describing new species, or documenting species diversity as herbarium collections and records in the Norwegian Species Database during numerous field visits across Norway and in remote continents.
As an internationally acknowledged researcher on sedges, a large family of grass-like plants, he revised flora releases in many tropical countries, particularly in Africa. Kåre was one of the few who could name a plant from most parts of the World. In Norway he contributed for example to the knowledge to the taxonomically difficult blackberry genus (parts of Rubus) in articles illustrated with beautiful and detailed drawings by his wife Gerd Mari; the last paper was published after his death.
Hostile landscape? No problem!
Although vascular plants were Kåre's everlasting passion, his keen taxonomic eye easily created an interest for other species groups. He was considered an expert on bryophytes after his discovery of several new species for Norway. He also reported new species of rust fungi to the national species list. When retired, he found time to take on new species groups. For example, he followed entomology courses together with students who were 60 years younger than him, and he hunted for rare polypores (wood inhabiting fungi) in rugged terrain that most people at his age would not have dared to enter.
Kåre’s work was characterized by a strong dedication, a great joy of discovery and an infectious enthusiasm. His many publications were often beautifully illustrated with a desire to convey the beauty of nature, whether it was in popularized masterpieces, or in scientific publications.
Kåre has given us much through his many collections and publications, his field teaching for several thousand students, as an active communicator of knowledge and participant in countless botanical excursions. His simple and unpretentiously direct, yet so friendly nature, was appreciated by many. The memories of a dear friend and a skilled and helpful field botanist live on. Even when we are gone, new generations of botanists will continue to be fascinated by the legacy he left behind.