Louisa Bolus

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Harriet Margaret Louisa Bolus née Kensit (31 July 1877, Burgersdorp – 5 April 1970, Cape Town) was a South African botanist and taxonomist, and the longtime curator of the Bolus Herbarium, from 1903.

Early life and education[edit]

Louisa Kensit was born at Bergersdorp in 1877, the daughter of William Kensit and Jane Stuart Kensit. Her parents were both British-born.[1] Her grandfather William Kensit was a serious amateur botanist and specimen collector in South Africa. She attended Collegiate Girls' High School in Port Elizabeth, earned a teaching credential in 1899, and was awarded a BA degree in literature and philosophy by the University of the Cape of Good Hope in 1902.[2]


She worked as an assistant to her great-uncle Harry Bolus in his herbarium while she was in college. In June 1913 she became a founding member of the council of the Botanical Society of South Africa; she was also a founding member of the Wild Life Protection Society, and a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, the Linnean Society, and the South African Association for the Advancement of Science.[1][2] She was appointed curator of the Bolus Herbarium in 1903, and retired from that position in 1955.[3] She hired botanical artist Louise Guthrie as a staff member at the herbarium.[4]

Her first book, Elementary Lessons in Systematic Botany, was published in 1919.[1] This was followed by two volumes of books on South African flowers.[5][6] Louisa contributed to a number of botanical journals throughout her life, and edited the Annals of the Bolus Herbarium.[7]

Louisa Bolus spent much of her life doing in-depth research on Mesembryanthema. Her Notes on Mesembryanthemum and Allied Genera was published in 1927.[8] This was followed by the publication of three books, covering the detailed Latin descriptions of approximately 1500 plants. In 1936 Louisa was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science degree from the University of Stellenbosch.[9]

A plant belonging to the large Mesembreyanthemum family, genus Kensita was established to honour Bolus's work on the subject. Louisa Bolus made contributions to Flowering Plants of South Africa, edited by E. P. Phillips in 1943, and in 1951 she was a guarantor for the publication of Wild Flowers of the Cape of Good Hope by Elsie Garrett Rice and R. H. Compton. Bolus was also considered a pioneer of the nature study classes at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.[1] In 1966, she became vice president of the African Succulent Plant Society.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1912 Louisa Kensit married Harry Bolus's son (and her father's cousin) Frank Bolus. She was widowed when Frank Bolus died in 1945. Louisa Bolus died at her home in Claremont, Cape Town in 1970 at the age of 93.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Mary R. S. Creese and Thomas M. Creese, Ladies in the Laboratory III (Scarecrow Press 2010): 17-18. ISBN 9780810872899
  2. ^ a b c Biography of Louisa Bolus at the S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science
  3. ^ Chuck Staples, "Louisa Bolus Biography" CSSA Archives.
  4. ^ John Rourke, "A Passion for Proteas: The Botanical Art of Louise Guthrie" Veld & Flora (September 2001): 120-123.
  5. ^ Harriet Margaret Louisa Bolus and Dorothy Barclay, A Book of South African Flowers (Juta, 1928).
  6. ^ Harriet Margaret Louisa Bolus, A Second Book of South African Flowers (Specialty Press of South Africa 1936).
  7. ^ Harriet Margaret Louise Kensit Bolus, ed., Annals of the Bolus Herbarium (University Press 1914).
  8. ^ Harriet Margaret Louisa Bolus, Notes on Mesembrianthemum and Allied Genera (University of Cape Town 1928).
  9. ^ Mary Gunn and L. E. W. Codd, Botanical Exploration South Africa (CRC Press 1981): 97. ISBN 9780869611296
  10. ^ IPNI.  L.Bolus.