His mother died at his birth and he was of delicate constitution all his life. His father was sufficiently well off to send him to winter in the warmer climate of Italy.
He attended horticultual college in Potsdam and later worked at the municipal gardens in Berlin. In 1874 he began work as a gardener in the nursery of Louis van Houtte in Ghent. Around 1880, he visited Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall and Caroline Islands. From his travels in the South Seas, he issued two papers on flora native to the islands. Ferns collected in the islands where shipped to the University of Leipzig, and the rest of the specimens were given to botanist Ferdinand von Mueller.
In September 1881 he was hired as a collector at the Sydney Botanical Gardens in New South Wales. In March 1897, he became a botanical assistant to Joseph Maiden. In Australia, he distinguished himself in the field of botanical systematics.
- "Handbook of the Flora of New South Wales", 1893 (with Charles Moore).
- "A Census of New South Wales Plants", 1916 (with Joseph Maiden).
- Betche, Ernst (1851–1913) by Terri McCormack Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Betche, D. Ernst L. (1851-1913) JSTOR Global Plants
- CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms by Umberto Quattrocchi
- IPNI. Betche.
- IPNI List of plants described and co-described by Betche.