Brenda Clarke (1917-2012)
It is with great sadness that we share with you the news that Brenda Clarke, illustrator of Illustrated Guide to the Wildflowers of Northern South Africa passed away on 3 March 2012.
Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
A TRIBUTE TO BRENDA CLARKE
Briza Publications asked me to write a tribute to Brenda because of our close association in compiling the Illustrated guide to the wildflowers of northern South Africa, and I do it with great pleasure.
I met Brenda while I was a student at the Department of Botany at the University of Pretoria in the early 1970s. At the time I thought she was a tall and imposing figure going about her serious business as Research Assistant to Prof. Nat Grobbelaar. It was only laterwhen I was working at the Botanical Research Institute ((later to become the National Botanical Institute and then recently South African National Biodiversity Institute), Pretoria, that I came to know Brenda a bit closer. She visited the Herbarium to identify plants for a book she was illustrating for Eve Palmer. She would arrive in a mini cooper, and it was always amazing to see the tall figure emerging from the small car.
It was around this time, after completion of Transvaalwild flowers with Anita Fabian, that the idea came about to compile an illustrated pocket guide to the wild flowers of northern South Africa. Although there were a number of books on the subject of wild flowers and because of the bulky nature of them, it was felt that there was still a great need for an illustrated pocket guide that could be easily carried into the field by botanists, hikers, ecotourists, nature lovers and farmers for on-the-spot identifications, making it unnecessary to collect specimens and deplete the countryside of its beautiful natural heritage. Because of Brenda's charming illustrations that she had made for Eve, she was the most obvious person to approach to find out if she was interested to illustrate the guide. She accepted the invitation without any hesitation.
Because of Brenda and her husband, Percy's interest in bird watching, they travelled to various localities throughout northern South Africa and it was on these excursions that Brenda accurately illustrated most of the beautiful drawings of flowering plants of the region found in this guide, as well as collecting and drying of most of the voucher specimens. On other occasions Brenda and I would visit popular hiking trails, such as the Melville Koppies, near Johannesburg for her to illustrate the flowers found there.
The book contains a total of 90 families, 330 genera and614 taxa illustrated in full colour. They are placed in eight major colour categories, namelywhite/cream-coloured flowers, pink flowers, yellow/orangeflowers, blue flowers, mauve/purple flowers, red flowers, brown flowersand greenflowers. It was also decided to include the more well-known exotic or alien weeds, such as cosmos, pom-pom weed, redstar zinnia, Mexican poppy to make the reader aware of the spread of these competitive plants in our natural vegetation.
I would spend many an afternoon in her interesting day room of her charming house in Brooklyn, hung with paintings from other artists and bookcases filled with useful books, while we were finalizing the book. One would continuously look out of the window and view the beautiful flowers covering every nook and cranny and their scent would waft through the room.
Unfortunately it was several years before the guide was finally published thanks to the initiative of Briza Publications and a generous sponsorship from Jessica Clarke.
Brenda will be sorely missed as a dear friend, but this guide and her other books will live on.