George Keith Cowlishaw (18 November 1901 - 2 October 1983) and his Clivias.

A comment made by Ken Smith in his presentation on Australian Clivias at the recent International Clivia Conference in Bellville, South Africa, pointed out the possibility that G. Keith Cowlishaw may have used Veitch material in his breeding program. This was, to me, like a bone to a dog. I am so keen to find out about the "Veitch Clivias" - there is just about nothing about them anywhere - that I went off on a goosechase.
While paging through some South African publications of the 1920's and 1930's looking for Blackbeard material a few months ago, I had encountered an article by Cowlishaw in the Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa. Since this piece is not mentioned in bibliographies, I got a copy of it for study, as well as the famous Cowlishaw and Bill Morris articles from Herbertia.
I digitised the two Cowlishaw articles, then I compared the two articles to see if they offered any different info; which they really do not to any significant degree, and then I commenced studying the life of Cowlishaw. From this, I have constructed an argument as to what plants I think he utilised in his breeding program. I also have a few comments on Veitch.
This section of my Website thus comprises the pile of information that I have gathered and prepared. This page also serves as a bibliography of material on Cowlishaw and his work on Clivia.

The Two Cowlishaw articles are available here in PDF:
Cowlishaw, G.K. 1934. Experiments in the Cross Fertilization of certain species of the Amaryllidaceae. The Journal of the Botanical Society of South Africa, 19: 10-13, together with a paragraph of editorial material from the same issue is available by clicking HERE.
Cowlishaw, G.K. 1935. Notes on Amaryllid Activities in Australia. Year Book of the American Amaryllis Society (now Herbertia), 2: 44-53; available by clicking HERE.
Everything that Cowlishaw wrote about clivias in these two articles, has been extracted and consolidated on this page.

The other, very important article (not offered here as it is still within copyright) is:
Morris, Bill. 1998. The Cowlishaw Clivias. Herbertia, 53: 164-167.
In this article, Morris essentially proposes that the two plants used by Cowlishaw as the foundation of his breeding line were both clones of Clivia miniata and that no C. nobilis was used. To understand my argument properly, it would be better for readers to acquire a copy of this article. Let me know if you have any problems

Warren Glover reported the death of Cowlishaw in the final paragraph of his piece:
Glover, W. 1985. Considerations in Clivia. Herbertia, 41: 30-31.
On the Yahoo Group site, OzClivia, Glover also published an excellent piece regarding his visit to Cowlishaw's garden shortly after the latter's death. This is available in the public archive of OzClivia, as posting #503 of October 24, 2005.

Ken Smith has also written about the Cowlishaw clivias, and owns and maintains a very respectable stock of this material.
His lecture, "Clivia in Australia", delivered at the 3rd International Clivia Conference of 2005, includes some notes and two pictures of Cowlishaw clivias, and was published in Vol. 3, no. 2 pp. 1-5 (2005) of the NACS periodical, The Clivia Quarterly, available as http://www.northamericancliviasociety.org/publications/past_newsletters/Vol3N3.pdf.
The piece was republished in The Clivia Quarterly Vol. 5, no. 2 pp. 6-7 (2007) , available as http://www.northamericancliviasociety.org/publications/past_newsletters/vol5num2.pdf.
Smith has also published significant contributions to the Cowlishaw database on OzClivia. Posting #34 of January 1, 2005 includes a description of the Cowlishaw garden and the terrible news that Cowlishaw breeding notebooks had been destroyed.
Posting #36 of January 1, 2005 included three photos of Cowlishaw plants - which are no longer available on the page, but have been placed in the Photo section of OzClivia, accessible to members of the group.
Posting #48 of January 1, 2005 included more biographic detail, and Smith's personal experiences and acquisition of Cowlishaw material.

Other material from Glenn Callcott, Jim Lykos and others on OzClivia also contains useful info. These postings may be accessed by searching the Group with the term 'Cowlishaw'. As of the end of April 2011, there are 39 postings relating to this search.

A fairly recent biography of G. Keith Cowlishaw appeared in Palms&Cycads (Pacsoa), No. 72 of July-Sept 2001, entitled "A tribute to a person of botanical distinction: Keith Cowlishaw" by John Price and Ian Edwards.

Finally, I offer here my biography of G. Keith Cowlishaw, and my comments on the plants which he used for his breeding program. This is available by clicking HERE.

Any comments, criticism or useful additions to anything on my Cowlishaw site will be gratefully received. E-mail:

© 2011 Greig Russell.


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