Above – Tom Cole took this photo of
near the summit of Mt. Morungole, in the northeast
corner of Uganda.
Right – Tom pointing out seed pods on an
plant, a noble species that grows along the Indian
Ocean from southern coastal Mozambique down into the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.
t emerged as a whisper of color. Soft African light filtered through dewy ferns and rain-
heavy grasses to illuminate a single flower, a peep of red in the otherwise verdant folds
of Mount Morungole. To one side of the mist-shrouded Ugandan peak lay Kenya; to the other,
South Sudan. But Montecito’s Tom Cole wasn’t thinking about the countries or cultures he’d
traversed to get there. He was thinking about aloes.
An avid horticulturist and co-owner of Cold Spring Aloes, a private botanical collection
devoted to the genus, Tom was familiar with every recorded aloe species in Uganda. This
one, however, with its fire-hued flowers and dense rosette of dark green leaves balancing atop
a stout trunk, was distinct.
“I knew from the get-go, it was unlike anything in Uganda,” he says, recalling that first
glimpse of a distant flower and the urgency he felt to document this new taxon, the botanical
version of staking one’s claim and recording it for posterity.
And yet it took several years for him to complete a formal description and publish the
—an homage to his late brother, Luke W. Cole, who died
in a car crash in 2009 while visiting Tom and his family at their provisional home in
Uganda. Seven years older than Tom, an attorney and pioneer of environmental
justice, Luke had been a “super mentor” to his little brother, who “always looked
up to him and learned quite a bit from him.”
Aloes in the Mist
Story by Matt Katz
Art by Heidi Bratt, Marcia Engelmann,
Chris Flannery, Gail McBride Kenny, Martha Shilliday
Tom Cole’s Humanitarian Efforts In Africa
Parallel His Passion For Plants
PHOTO COURTESY TOM COLE.