Olive Coates Palgrave

Erythrina abyssinica by Olive Coates Palgrave

Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist’s estate and the Director and the Board of Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

I would like to continue what Keith Coates Palgrave and RB Drummond did in Common Trees of the Highveld (Zimbabwean Highveld, that is) in 1973:

‘‘The coloured illustrations used in this book are taken from the original watercolour paintings by the late Olive H. Coates Palgrave, and they featured in the book Trees of Central Africa published [...] in 1956. This book has been out of print for many years now, and we are pleased to be able to bring nearly half of these paintings to a new and wider audience in this present volume.’’

Olive H. Coates Palgrave was the mother of Keith Coates Palgrave and mother-in-law of Meg Coates Palgrave, who revised the 2002 edition of the 1 212-page magnum opus Trees of Southern Africa.

Olive Hanniball was born in Cradock, Eastern Cape (ie, South Africa) on 5 April 1889. Her father, Albert John Alfred Trollop, a direct 1820 Settler descendant, was a farmer but ‘‘it was the loss of his entire flock of sheep in a snow storm which decided him to move to Southern Rhodesia,’’ Meg Coates Palgrave tells me. He left in 1895, but the family was not able to join him until 1900 due to the Matabele Rebellion and then the Boer War. They travelled by train to Bulawayo and then by the famous Zeederberg Coach Company to Gwelo (now Gweru) in Zimbabwe.

While the family was still in the Karoo, Olive started her education at the Huguenot College in Wellington, South Africa where she had a very special botany teacher: Bertha Stoneman, who published Plants and their ways in South Africa .

In 1906 Olive left school and in 1915 she married Sidney Heneage Coates Palgrave, a civil servant in what was Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe). Three sons were born to them: Roderic (Deric) in 1917, Keith in 1926 and Paul, Meg's husband, in 1929. She had always had a love of plants, and the family regularly went on Outings in the Bush from the boys' youngest infancy.

‘‘Loving nature as Heneage and I did we wanted our sons to grow up consciously and unconsciously seeped with the beauties and wonders of nature,’’ Olive writes in her mémoires. >>