S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Frith, Mr Frank (plant collection, horticulture)

Born: 1872, Marlow-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom.
Died: 1954, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Frank Frith, horticulturalist, came to South Africa in 1900, during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), with the Royal Army Medical Corps. After the war he settled in the Transvaal, where "Mr Frith", presumably him, was gardener to the Lieutenant-Governor of the Transvaal Colony in 1902. In 1906 he resided in Pretoria and in 1910 in Johannesburg. He was married to Mary Walsh, but they were divorced in 1903. Later he married Alice Mary Simpson, but they too were divorced, in 1921.

Probably in 1909, when he is known to have applied for employment in the Transvaal, or shortly thereafter, Frith was appointed by the South African Railways as its first horticulturalist and supplied with a special coach to collect succulents all over South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia). On the Witwatersrand he is know to have done some collecting between 1910 and 1918. He also became a well-known succulent grower.

In 1925 Frith was responsible for the South African stand, with mainly succulent plants, at the Wembley Empire Exhibition, for which he received the bronze Lindley Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society. Some years after his retirement in 1932 he was largely responsible for the indigenous garden at the 1936 Empire Exhibition in Johannesburg. The genus Frithia was named after him by N.E. Brown*, based on plants that Frith received from Mrs E. Dobie of Rustenburg for the Wembley Exhibition. The species Nerine frithii and Peersia frithii were named after him by Mrs H.M.L. Bolus*.

List of sources:

Gilliland, H.B. On the history of plant study upon the Witwatersrand. Journal of South African Botany, 1953, Vol. 19, pp. 93-104.

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

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS), at http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Frank Frith / F. Frith / Mr Frith.

Compiled by: C. Plug