Two wings were added to the Compton Herbarium in 1958. Since the transfer of the Herbarium to the Kirstenbosch Research Centre in 2002, the building has served as offices of the Garden Curator.
When Harry Bolus died in 1911, he bequeathed his great herbarium, library and most of his personal fortune to the South African College. Had he lived just a few more years, he might well have left his estate to Kirstenbosch – or at least that is what Compton believed. But neither timing nor luck was on Kirstenbosch’s side in this matter, for, although the Bolus Herbarium was housed at Kirstenbosch for 11 years (1923-1934), its future lay with what became the University of Cape Town.
Trip To Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden Cost Photo Gallery
The matter remained a source of much concern to Compton, who described the removal of the Herbarium as ‘both retrograde and catastrophic’. The reason is simple: a herbarium is the key repository of botanical knowledge that any botanical garden must have if it is to function as a scientific institution. Compton had been trained as a taxonomist and systematist; his interest lay with discovering plants new to science, carefully describing them, classifying them, and curating the dried specimens in a well-organised ‘library of plant specimens’- which is what a herbarium is.
Undaunted by the departure of the Bolus Herbarium, Compton set about building a herbarium at Kirstenbosch. His efforts saw the establishment of a Botanical Assistantship in 1933 – until which time he had been the only botanist on the Garden’s staff – and by 1940 he had three botanists, a growing library and 9 908 mounted herbarium specimens in 32 cabinets. The trauma of losing the Bolus collection, and the establishment of a competing, well-endowed National Herbarium in Pretoria in 1923, was eased. He later recalled:
‘This successful beginning of the new Herbarium gave great encouragement to the belief that the Gardens were after all by nature a definitely botanical centre, and did much to heal the wounds that fate had inflicted upon them
Jamesbrittenia bergae – perhaps the most spectacular ornamental plant recently discovered in South Africa – demonstrates the importance of continued field exploration in the country
Pelargonium peltatum, the South African species from which thousands of hybrid ‘geraniums’ have been bred, adds colour to the window boxes of Europe.