Frank S. Rose (1927 -2020)

Posted Dec 10, 2020

Long-time AZNPS member and Tucson botanist Frank S. Rose passed away on October 15, 2020 at his home in Tucson, surrounded by his family.  Frank was a warm and steady presence at our monthly meetings, annual meetings, and other AZNPS events, greeting old friends, welcoming new ones, and sharing his insights into plant biology.  Frank and his wife Louise came to Tucson in 1982, where he served as pastor of the Sunrise Chapel until 2003.  Beginning in 2011, he led almost-weekly summer plant walks at locations in the Santa Catalina Mountains, taking these over from Dr. Bob Porter and from Joan Tedford.  Frank was generous with his time and his knowledge, and many Tucson naturalists came to learn and appreciate the mountain flora through his efforts.  He was also a talented watercolorist, an artistry that he practiced most of his life.

Upon arriving in Tucson, he began painting and photographing the wildflowers of his beloved Catalinas.

Frank in photographer mode, among the bracken ferns. Photo by Tom Van Devender.

One day, Frank happened to meet Joan Tedford in Molino Basin, while Joan was checking on the status of a single plant of Clitoria mariana that had been sighted in the streambed. This chance encounter led to a good friendship and a rich botanical partnership on the mountain. Frank’s keen eye would often notice that certain plants seemed different, while Joan would key out and identify Frank’s many mystery plants. (While Joan would never identify herself as such, she was a very good botanist and a passionate plant person who was a botanical mentor to Frank.)

The eventual 2011 publication of his book, “Mountain Wildflowers of Southern Arizona: A Field Guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains and other Nearby Ranges,” was a culmination of Frank’s  conversion to botany.  He went on to author several other botanical books: “Mountain Trees of Southern Arizona,” “Small Wonders,” and most recently “Catalina Mountains: A Guide Book with Original Watercolors.”  Frank’s books were notable because he had a knack for conveying botanical information in a way that made it accessible to beginning botanists.

Frank discussing botanical details on a hike. Photo by Lyn Loveless.

His “Small Wonders” book was especially appealing because it focused, not on the showy or dramatic species, but on small, unassuming plants, many of them weeds, that we might normally walk past or ignore.  In a way, this book was a metaphor for Frank’s personality.  He was completely unpretentious and utterly egalitarian.  Every new person he met was a friend and fellow learner.  Frank was an active member of our society and contributed his insights and enthusiasm to our meetings and our outreach.  He was scheduled to lead two close-to-home plant forays last April, but these were subsequently cancelled because of the pandemic.  For many of us, however, every future plant walk we make along the Catalina Highway will be a reminder of Frank’s generosity, kindness, and quiet appreciation of the beauty of plants in our lives.  He will be deeply missed.  Our condolences go to his family and close friends at the loss of a great spirit.

Lyn Loveless and Jim Verrier