oa South African Journal of Science - One hundred years of botany at Rhodes University

Volume 100, Issue 11-12
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



The Botany Department of Rhodes University is located in the historic Schonland Building. An indigenous garden was created in its courtyard, mainly of species of the Eastern Cape province, and its growth in diversity and stature mirrors the changes in the department over the years. Professor Selmar Schonland, the founding father of botany at Rhodes, was also the curator / director of the Albany Museum. Under his leadership, systematics was firmly established as a discipline at Rhodes and research on the flora of the Eastern Cape begun, to be continued to this day. Under professors William Isaac (1949-1951) and Edgar Twyman (1951-1973), plant physiology became an important area of study, and future leaders in physiology at other universities obtained degrees under them. Phycology and aquatic ecology became notable disciplines with Mary Pocock's world-class work in the 1940s on freshwater and marine algae, which inspired others such as head of department Professor Stanley Seagrief (1958-1986) to develop these studies further. Mycology and microbiology were established as major subdisciplines under Noel Smith (1926-1948) and Twyman through to the 1960s, when the Department of Microbiology was established. Early studies in ecology owe their success to Tony Martin (1947-1956) and the link with the Grahamstown Botanical Research Station, when a sound base for plant ecology in the Eastern Cape was established. Coastal ecology became a major focus in the 1970s, when Roy Lubke and Ted Avis concentrated on dunes and the management of coastal regions. This led to the establishment of the Department of Environmental Science in the 1990s. The expertise of the botany staff in teaching and research in a variety of fields is reflected in the careers of its many students around the world.

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