National Trust Tribute to Mr Darrel Plowes


It is with the deepest regret that we note the passing of Darrel Plowes, in Mutare, on Wednesday 19th October 201 aged 91. Darrel has been an invaluable friend of the National Trust of Zimbabwe for a many, many years and a great source of information and of assistance through his long friendship with Sir Stephen and Lady Virginia Courtauld of La Rochelle when he worked with them on many projects in the early years of La Rochelle.  His knowledge of the La Rochelle property was a great help to the Trust during the recent refurbishment programme and we will be eternally grateful for his precious input over the years.

Darrel’s long career before retirement was in agriculture, natural resource management and extension where his contributions were substantial. His extensive interests covered an incredibly wide range of subjects in the fields of natural history, agronomy, entomology, botany and ornithology, to name just a few. The Trust was truly honoured and fortunate to have as an active member, one of the greatest all-round naturalists of Zimbabwe.

Darrel was an authority on stapeliads, orchids, butterflies, birds and bird’s eggs. Several new species have been named in his honour; these include grasses, aloes, a butterfly, legless lizard, mole-rat and a new sub-species of birds.  His plant specimens at the National Herbarium are among the best preserved described and recorded. We are all richer for having known Darrel Plowes and we give thanks for the wonderfully inspiring life of this man and his love of all creation.  Even in the last few weeks of his life, when Darrel was in great pain while sitting at the computer he took the time to write to the Trust on matters which were of concern to him.

On behalf of our Executive Council and members of the Trust, we extend our deepest sympathy to all Darrel’s family and to his companion, Nina. We will ensure a suitable tribute is recorded for Darrel as an acknowledgement and appreciation for all he has done and achieved in his lifetime.

Here are some of our Executive Committee members’ comments:

Darrel will be sadly missed and leave a big void in our community. Darrel was an incredible font of knowledge in many areas scientific, historical, and archaeological, in fauna and flora and this list is by no means exhaustive. He was extremely passionate about Zimbabwe and the Trust and its activities and especially its Mutare properties and in particular the La Rochelle Estate, having known the Courtaulds personally. Our thoughts and prayers go to all his family and close friends at this difficult time.                           David Scott

He was one of Zimbabwe’s botanical giants and one of the most knowledgeable all-round naturalists I have ever had the pleasure and honour to meet. He may now have ended his never finishing work but will always keep on inspiring me and many others for the remainder of our lives. Whether professional scientist or amateur enthusiast we owe a great debt to his unrelenting search for knowledge and understanding of the natural world.                                                                      Rob Burrett

Darrel was also a key link between the present and past of La Rochelle both with the Courtauld Family and the botanicals, particularly the orchids. It was perhaps symbolic that the Lady Virginia Orchid which last flowered in 1973 just after Lady Virginia’s death, came out into flower just before Darrel passed away some 43 years later!  Fortunately Jannie Martin took the orchid up to show Darrel in hospital.                                    Harvey Leared

Darrel was an incredible man and a true gentleman, he was an inspiration to us all and he will sorely missed not least by myself.  I was so privileged to have spent time with him over the years and to have been part of the interview and video event that we undertook with Roger Fairlie a couple of years back at La Rochelle.  It is our intention to make a film on La Rochelle with Darrel’s interview included.  It will be a fitting tribute.                       Sharon Waterworth

Darrel, as David and Sharon have noted, had so many and varied talents and achievements some of which may not generally be known.  My brother in Australia wrote that he first knew Darrel as Head of Agricultural Extension for communal areas in Manicaland before he became senior in the Dept. of Agriculture in Mutare.  Later he rose to a senior level in the Ministry. When he went overseas to do a Masters in Ecology Darrel gave him a number of slides showing trials on soil and water conservation, and trials and demos in communal and commercial farming areas. These always impressed the viewers and I am reminded of the brilliant photographer he was.

Darrel told me how he taught the first groups of Nyanga Weavers the various plants to use for the natural dying of wool. We are all the richer for having known Darrel and give thanks that he was able to share his knowledge and love of this country and of nature to so many.                 Edone Ann Logan

We have been so honoured to have had Darrel as a friend and mentor; he was a man of many parts and always with the Trust at heart. So very sorry Nina for your loss.   We are all the poorer for his passing. My condolences to all his family and friends, he will be sorely missed                                Fira Bache

What terribly sad news. Darrel will be sorely missed and leave a deep void in the field of ornithology and botany, two of his many passions. What an amazing font of knowledge he was and such a highly respected expert in these fields he dedicated his life to.                        Lin Gonçalves

I write to convey my condolences to you, the family members, on the passing on of Darrel Plowes. I came to know him in person in 2014 and always kept in touch by email. On 8 April 2016 we sat at the same table at La Rochelle and touched on many issues including my request for him to bring back on the market an authoritative book on ‘Gardening in Zimbabwe.’ His response was in the affirmative.  God has his way of doing things!  Darrel will certainly be remembered and missed by the NTZ Community. May His Soul Rest in Peace.                                            Elliot Mugamu

The NTZ have happily accepted Darrel’s family request that a memorial bench be placed in the orchid area at La Rochelle. The bench will allow visitors to pause and reflect on the beauty of the orchids. The orchid area was a place that had special significance to Darrel since it was Sir Stephen who inspired Darrel’s fondness for orchids, and in turn Darrel has very kindly donated the balance of his small collection back to La Rochelle.  This is wonderful news for the NTZ and typifies Darrel’s love of La Rochelle and a sign will be erected to indicate the “Kind donation of these orchids by Darrel Plowes”.

The NTZ is also planning for a small memorial stone to be placed at La Rochelle as a specific tribute to highlight Darrell’s incredible commitment and contribution to the NTZ and especially to La Rochelle, not just lately but over many decades. The stone will be unveiled in December 2016.

For the benefit of future visitors to La Rochelle the NTZ will also compile a one page flyer outlining Darrel’s achievements and contributions to the NTZ, the document will be part of the long and varied history of this important property.


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