South African Flowering Trees – A botanical adventure through history


The flowering trees of South Africa have attracted attention since time immemorial for their beauty as much as for their use by herbalists, housewives and hunters. Their stories have been told through the generations by botanical collectors, travellers and enthusiasts. Their bark, leaves, seeds and roots have been used as food and flavouring and healing, to aid teething babies and even to bring an untimely end to troublesome neighbours.


Now, the fascinating history of 25 of South Africa’s flowering trees has been told by aptly named Rob Wood, a retired banker with a lifelong interest in botany and horticulture.


The seed of an idea for the book was planted when Wood was a volunteer at the CE Moss Herbarium at the University of the Witwatersrand and he met Frean in the Herbarium.


Frean was a botanist, formerly on the staff at Wits, and a fellow of the Linnean Society.When she retired, she channelled her formidable energies into botanical illustration.

South African Flowering Trees by Rob Wood. Image suppied by Hippo Communications

Frean noticed that Wood was cataloguing and studying the rich collection of botanical volumes in the Herbarium library and asked him to write some notes about the history of tree names and their early discovery, to accompany her paintings. As their friendship grew, they started planning a book to feature some of the decorative indigenous trees growing in the grounds of the university, along Parktown Ridge, and at their respective homes.


They focused on those trees which were beautiful to look at and which had interesting stories to tell, and gradually developed a final list of 25 trees. Then they had to wait for each tree to flower in its season, so that Frean could capture its beauty in her paintings. Meanwhile, Wood researched the background and history of that tree and wrote the text.


Sadly, Frean died soon after completing the 25 paintings and the book is dedicated to her memory.


Complementing Frean’s colour plates are a series of highly detailed line drawings by Sandie Burrows, a horticulturist, field botanist and acclaimed botanical illustrator.


South African Flowering Trees, a botanical adventure through history is more than just a field guide. The rich, anecdotal style of the text avoiding technical jargon and the perfectly detailed drawings make this a book that will be a treasured part of any collection.



South African Flowering Trees

A botanical adventure through history


By Rob Wood

With watercolour paintings by Millicent Frean and line drawings by Sandie Burrows


Published by Print Matters
ISBN 978-0-9870293-4-8 Standard Hardcover Edition R499.00

ISBN 978-0-9870293-5-5 General Softcover Edition R399.00


For more information, contact Nicola Naidoo at 021 556 8200 or email