Briza Publications author Meg Coates Palgrave (née Stead) is an enthusiastic dendrologist. She was born in Bulawayo and educated in what is now Mutare. Her father was employed in what was then called the Native Department until he moved to farm at Nyanga when she was 15 so she spent her childhood when not at boarding school in a rural environment. She had an early interest in plants and her first botanical book was Rhodesian Wild Flowers by Martineau and Phear (1953). This interest increased when she met Paul just as the Coates Palgrave family were completing Trees of Central Africa with the paintings by Olive, Paul’s mother and text by Keith, Paul’s brother with photographs by Paul and his brother Deric. Meg Coates Palgrave always says that:
‘If a tree has a name it has and identity. Once it has an identity it means something. It doesn’t matter what it is called as long as a person knows and recognises it by that name.”
Meg’s interest in trees really came to the fore when she and Paul took the photographs for Trees of Southern Africa published in 1977 by Struik, for which Paul’s brother Keith did the text. She says you can’t take photographs of trees for a scientific book unless you know what the trees are. That opened the door for Meg to really get to know them. She and Paul also helped with checking text and proofs, and produced the list of English names. Meg spent the best part of five years completely revising Trees of Southern Africa which was published in 2002.
Everyone’s Guide Trees of South Africa by Keith, Paul and Meg Coates Palgrave was published in 1985 shortly after Paul’s death in 1983. Meg revised this in 2000.
In 2004 Jacana published Sappi Tree Spotting Lifer List attempting to standardise English common names for trees in South Africa with Meg as one of the eight co-authors. Meg says that was great fun as we all got together several times and discussed the pros and cons of all the names which effectively meant discussing trees.
1st September 2011, Arbor Day in South Africa, saw the launch of Dictionary of southern African trees in the Botanical Garden in Pretoria for which Meg Coates Palgrave a co-author with Braam van Wyk, Erika van den Berg and Marie Jordaan. This dictionary is a catalogue of the names of 2 100 species of trees, shrubs and woody climbers providing both the scientific names and over 2 400 common names in thirty languages.
In 1989 Meg published the booklet A Guide to the Trees of the Mukuvisi Woodlands and then in 1996 published Key to the Trees of Zimbabwe comprising keys for six different areas. This book was enthusiastically received and Meg was presented with the Bob Rutherford Memorial Award in 1996 in recognition of her substantial contribution to conservation.
Meg conducts Know Your Trees Courses throughout the sub-continent showing people how to identify indigenous trees in the field using the user-friendly Key to some Trees of Where ever the course is being held. At present there are Keys for ten different areas in South Africa, eight in Zimbabwe, seven in Zambia, two in Mozambique and one each in Botswana and Malawi and it is planned to put them together as an app.
Meg has had the opportunity to work in Mozambique. Recognising the rich plant diversity in Sofala Province, central Mozambique, she started a survey of the woody species of the area and established a field herbarium at Catapú, a timber concession about 30 km from Caia which is on the Zambezi River. This has greatly enhanced available resources for research and education in the area. There is now a website menu devoted to the Cheringoma Herbarium at the following URL: http://acdb.co.za/index.php/cheringoma-herbarium/introduction.html The Cheringoma Virtual herbarium is at :http://acdb.co.za/dna/cheringoma.php In addition photos and scans of specimens are gradually being added to this site.
Meg is also working on a vernacular dictionary of the Sena plant names for the area.
Meg Coates Palgrave was awarded the Marloth Medal by the Botanical Society of South Africa. This medal is awarded to any amateur or professional botanist who has produced scientific literature of a popular nature to stimulate public interest in the indigenous flora of southern Africa. The announcement was made by Ted Oliver at the final plenary session of the AETFAT (The Association for the Taxonomic Study of the Flora of Tropical Africa) congress in Stellenbosch in January 2014.
Books by Meg Coates Palgrave
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