The third of the trio of 1772 was Francis Masson (1741-1805). Significantly, he was born in Aberdeen – it is said that the custom in England at the time was to select thrifty Scots as gardeners. Such was the case at Kew, and Sir Joseph Banks recommended to King George III that Masson should be sent to the Cape to collect interesting plants for the Royal garden. He arrived in the Cape on Cook’s Resolution on 30 October 1772, just as Sparrman was setting off for the South Seas. Unlike Sparrman and Thunberg, Masson was a gardener, not a scientist. This, in effect, added to his value. His horticultural training resulted in his selecting plants of gardening merit, rather than mere scientific curiosity. He introduced 400 new species into horticulture, including 50 Pelargoniums, the source material of the profusion of ‘geranium’ hybrids and cultivars that have added so much colour to homes and gardens around the world. Other genera that he introduced included Ericas, Cinerarias, Ixias (including the remarkable green Ixia – Ixia viridiflora) and, to the delight of King George III, Strelitzia reginae, named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen-consort.
Masson left the Cape in March 1775 – just as Sparrman arrived back – and returned to Kew, where his introductions caused a sensation. Soon after his return he resumed his travels, collecting specimens in the Azores, Madeira, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and, in 1786, in the Cape again, for another nine years. Such was the indefatigable nature of the plant collectors of the 18th century!
Erica massonii, a striking heath, was named after Francis Masson, the great collector of the Cape’s horticultural gems.
This vista of Kirstenbosch offers a visual feast from foreground to distant horizon, thanks to the extraordinary and unparalleled beauty of the Garden’s setting.
All Inclusive Trip To Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Photo Gallery
A passion for Cape plants William Paterson, collector and colonial administrator, after whom the Endangered Erica patersonii was named Streptocarpus kentaniensis is a recently described species from the genus discovered in 1826 by Erica patersonii was namedfor the Scottish collector William Paterson who visited the Cape in the 1770s. The closing years of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th saw many more important collectors in the Cape, as the fame of its floral wealth spread through the gardens of Europe. Among them were the Scot William Paterson, collector for the Countess of Strathmore; Germans Frans Boos and Georg Scholl, collectors for Emperor Josef II; another Scot, James Niven, collector for London businessman George Hibbert and later for the French Empress Josephine; the Austrian Ferdinand Bauer – one of two brothers, both botanical artists extraordinaire; the German Martin Lichtenstein, who also served as family doctor to the Governor at the Cape; the English scientist and explorer William Burchell; another collector from Kew, James Bowie; and a trio of German collectors – Carl Zeyher, Christian Ecklon and Franz Drege – who together despatched more than 200 000 specimens of 8 000 species to the herbaria of Europe. These were men of the Enlightenment, who pursued truth with passion and unfettered enthusiasm Each made impressive contributions to our knowledge.
The surge of collecting activity at the Cape was not always a free-for-all scramble. As early as 1805, collecting permits were needed. In the winter of 1804, Empress Josephine Bonaparte, keenly interested in obtaining plants from the Cape of Good Hope for her garden at Malmaison, despatched James Niven to the Cape for his second visit. Niven arrived in Table Bay in early 1805 and, on 3 April, was issued a permit to collect plants ‘in the service of Her Majesty the Empress of the French’ probably the first collecting permit on record in Africa, although the practice soon fell away as colonial interest waned. The introduction of permits to monitor or restrict collecting had perhaps been triggered by the visit in the 1770s of Scotsman William Paterson, who was suspected of being on a spying mission. Paterson went on to Australia, making major collections there and even becoming, for a brief period, Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales.
James Niven, represented here by Nivenia stokoei, had to obtain a collecting permit in 1805 from the Batavian Government in the Cape, perhaps following suspicions that an earlier collector, William Paterson, had engaged in spying activities at the Cape in the 1770s.