William Wilks

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For the Australian politician (1863?-1940), see William Wilks (Australian politician).

The Reverend William Wilks (1843–1923) was a notable British horticulturalist and clergyman.


Following education at Oxford University, William Wilks served as Curate in the parish of Croydon. In 1879 he became the incumbent of the parish of Shirley.

The parish church at Shirley, where William Wilks was the incumbent from 1879

Wilks attained some fame as a horticulturalist and was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society for his work. He also served as one of the most distinguished Secretaries of the Royal Horticultural Society, and the ornate wrought iron gates at the Society's garden at Wisley commemorate him and his flower.

The Shirley Poppy[edit]

His most famous horticultural work concerned the breeding of the Shirley Poppy. Wilks noticed an unusual poppy in a corner of his garden ("abutting on the fields"). This was a minor variant of the wild poppy, Papaver rhoeas, in which the petals were bordered by a strip of white. From this slight variation, by patient crossing and selection, he bred the varied and ornamental "Shirley Poppies".

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