Ernst Van Jaarsveld, Schotia brachypetala and Margaret Best.

Posted by Michael Best on February 07, 2015 0 Comments

Ernst Van Jaarsveld, botanist, horticulturalist, author, and curator of the South African National Bio-diversity Institute at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden near Cape Town, South Africa, has been reported as describing himself as a 'plantsman'. I would add ‘consumate gentleman’. Van Jaarsveld has made it his life’s work to study and inform the general public on the benefits of indigenous gardening and has written books and numerous articles in local publications, writes for local newspapers and is well known for the advice he offers in columns featured online. He is also well known and respected world-wide in botanical circles.                       

Schotia brachypetala is one of the show-piece trees of the South Africa bushveld. There are also two magnificent specimens in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Semi-deciduous, this medium to large tree has a beautiful shape and showy, deep red flowers that drip nectar, attracting many birds and insects. Schotia is named after Richard von der Schot (died 1819), who was the head gardener at the Schönbrunn Gardens in Vienna. He travelled in South Africa. The tree has a number of common names including: Weeping boerbean (English, South Africa); Huilboerboon (Afrikaans, South Africa); and Drunk Parrot Tree in Australia – which brings us to Margaret Best.                                                            

Margaret Best is a renowned Canadian botanical artist and teacher. She has been bestowed the honour of being the only Canadian botanical artist requested to paint a piece for the exhibition to commemorate the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney bicentennial in 2016. Her topic, as you may have guessed, is Schotia brachypetala, which can be found  in the RBGS.                                                                          

On Monday, 26th January 2015, Van Jaarsveld, Schotia and Best met at Kirstenbosch for specimen examination and collection (there are no known living specimens of Schotia within many, many miles of Canada’s snowy and frozen landscape). Van Jaarsveld spared no effort in ensuring that Schotia brachypetala offered Best the specimens needed to supplement those previously collected at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California with the help of Leslie Walker and Janice Sharp. 

When Best’s Schotia brachypetala is hung in Sydney in the RBGS bicentennial exhibition in 2016, it will represent not only a superb artistic endeavour, but also enthusiastic support from Kirstenbosch and the Huntington. Without that the painting would not have been possible.


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