Round Trip Tickets To Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

The Harry Bolus Bequest funded the establishment of the Herbarium built in Kirstenbosch in 1924, renamed the Compton Herbarium in 1958.

The need for accurate identification of all plant material introduced to a scientifically purposeful botanic garden required that dried specimens of each accession be preserved in the Garden’s archives – in a herbarium. Developing a well-documented herbarium collection and classifying and describing the many new species being discovered became Compton’s primary focus. He collaborated closely with colleagues at the University of Cape Town, where the valuable Bolus collection had been housed – under unfavourable conditions. Although it was bequeathed to the University on Bolus’ death in 1911, it was decided that the collection should be transferred to a new herbarium built at Kirstenbosch in 1924. Not only did the Bolus Herbarium and Library move to Kirstenbosch, but so too did Mrs H.M.L. (Louisa) Bolus, the niece and daughter-in-law of Harry Bolus, who had appointed her Curator in perpetuity of his famous collections. Louisa Bolus made a major contribution to Kirstenbosch, not only to its science programme (see page 152), but also by initiating nature study classes (see page 153) in the Garden.

Competing ambitions in South African botany Dr Illtyd Buller Pole Evans, dynamic Director of the Division of Botany (later the Botanical Research Institute) in Pretoria, and one-time nemesis of Compton

Three champions of South African botany – Allen Dyer, I.B. Pole Evans and John Hutchinson, author of A botanist in South Africa

Compton, a quietly spoken, patrician gentleman, was not a political animal. Unlike Pearson, he avoided the dynamics of the political landscape. He was probably unaware, when he arrived in the Cape in 1919, of the professional tensions between the north and the south of the country. His adversary in the politics of botany was another Cambridge man, Dr Illtyd Buller Pole Evans (18791968). Pole Evans, an ambitious, enormously productive and decisive redhaired Welshman, was born near Cardiff, and arrived in South Africa in 1905 to take up the post of Mycologist and Pathologist in the newly established Transvaal Department of Agriculture. Like Pearson, he started building an institution from meagre beginnings.

Round Trip Tickets To Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Photo Gallery




In 1913 the Division of Botany within the new Union government was formed under Pole Evans’ leadership, and ownership of the Natal Herbarium was obtained under an agreement with John Medley Wood, the driving force for botany in that province. (The Division of Botany would evolve into the Botanical Research Institute (BRI) in 1961.) Pole Evans’ ambitions were revealed when, within a month of Pearson’s death, he issued a memorandum advocating the transfer of control of Kirstenbosch to Pretoria. His energy was seemingly limitless. He travelled throughout southern Africa, mapping, photographing and describing its major vegetation types and, with the backing of the Minister of Agriculture, he established the Botanical Survey Advisory Committee in 1918, with himself as Chairman. Pole Evans corresponded actively with Kew, and saw the need for strong collaboration. In 1919 he established a ‘South African Botanical Liaison Officer’ post at Kew, and for 73 years a succession of young South African botanists had the opportunity to work at Kew. these included many future leaders in South African taxonomy, even two future directors of the BRI – R.A. Dyer (1900-1987) and Bernard de Winter (1924-). In 1919 Pole Evans established the journal Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa; in 1920 he published Flowering Plants of South Africa, and, in 1921, Bothalia. He became President of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science in 1922. There could be little question that, through his decisive action and political influence, Pole Evans had developed a serious challenge to the perceived leadership of Kirstenbosch in matters botanical.

Jan Smuts addresses the Botanical Society at its Silver Jubilee, celebrated in Kirstenbosch in 1938. Compton was deeply traumatised by the north-south polarities that emerged when the then Prime Minister, General Jan C. Smuts, opened the new National Herbarium building in Pretoria in July 1923. The pain was exacerbated by Smuts’ concluding comment: ‘You want a Kew. What Kew is to England and the British Empire, this National Herbarium must be to South Africa.’ Worse, Smuts, a dedicated amateur botanist himself, made no reference to Kirstenbosch in his opening address. Uncharacteristically, Compton responded with some passion in an article published in the Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa. Quoting at length the commentary on the matter in Kew Bulletin, Nature and the Cape Times, he concluded ‘The Government withholds the most urgently necessary grants from Kirstenbosch, South Africa’s natural Kew, while spending lavishly on the pseudo-Kew of Pretoria. It is notorious that Kirstenbosch has been and is being starved.’ Jan Smuts repaired some of the damage by his conciliatory words at the Silver Jubilee Celebrations at Kirstenbosch in 1938:

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