S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Stokoe, Mr Thomas Pearson (plant collection)

Born: 24 February 1868, Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.
Died: 21 April 1959, Cape Town, South Africa.

Thomas Pearson Stokoe, lithographer, mountaineer and plant collector, completed an apprenticeship as a lithographer in Leeds and also attended art classes. He came to South Africa in 1911 and was employed by the printing firm Cape Times, Ltd in Cape Town. In his spare time he climbed extensively in the mountains of the Western Cape, collecting plants in relatively little-known areas. He became a member of the Mountain Club of South Africa in 1913 and was later elected an honorary life member. His plant specimens totalled about 16 000, collected mainly in the region of Kogelberg and the Hottentots Holland Mountains and including many new species and plants known only from the work of early collectors at the Cape. About 30 species were named after him, including Protea stokoei and Brunia stokoei (by E.P. Phillips*), Erica stokoei and Watsonia stokoei (by H.M.L. Bolus*), Mimetes stokoei (by Phillips and J. Hutchinson*) and Gladiolus stokoei (by G.J. Lewis). Unfortunately his collections were seldom numbered and he often failed to document his localities adequately. He made competent water-colour paintings of some of the specimens he sent to herbaria, including one of the now apparently extinct Mimetes stokoei. In 1959, on his ninety-first birthday, he and Professor H.B. Rycroft went collecting in the Hottentots Holland Mountains. Stokoe contracted pneumonia during this trip and never fully recovered.

Stokoe wrote several articles for the Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, including 'Some impressions and reflections of a plant collector' (1954). Volume 5 of Flowering plants of South Africa (1925) was dedicated to him. Most of the specimens he collected are in the Bolus Herbarium, University of Cape Town; Compton Herbarium, National Botanical Institute, Cape Town; Selmar Schonland Herbarium, Albany Museum, Grahamstown; and the National Herbarium, Pretoria. Some of his water colours can be seen at Kirstenbosch, in the Bolus Herbarium, and at Kew Gardens, England. He became a member of the South African Biological Society in 1920 and a member of the Cape Natural History Club in 1922.

As a mountaineer Stokoe was a well-liked companion, though he preferred to explore the mountains on his own. He was married to Lilian Stokoe and had a daughter.

List of sources:

The Cape Naturalist, 1934, Vol. 1(1), pp. 25-28: Club Roll.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

Gunn, M. and Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

J Stor Global Plants. http://plants.jstor.org/stable/10.5555/al.ap.person.bm000064463

Manning, J. South Africa's Scarlet Pimpernel: In search of Gladiolus stokoei. Veld and Flora, September 2006, pp. 138-139.

South African Journal of Natural History, 1920, Vol. 2(2), pp. 293-301: Roll of members [of the South African Biological Society].

Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Compiled by: C. Plug