John Burrows is a South African horticulturalist originally from Zimbabwe. He was born and raised in Salisbury (now Harare). He joined the Department of Research and Specialist Services in 1970, after his university studies were interrupted by the Rhodesian conflict, and was stationed as a research technician in Salisbury and Inyanga. Under the mentorship of Bob Drummond at the SRGH, which houses his collections from this period, he started a checklist of the plants in Inyanga National Park. In 1977 he moved to South Africa to study horticulture at Cape Technicon and became a horticulturalist and assistant curator at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. He returned for a short time to Zimbabwe to take up the post of station manager at the Sengwa Wildlife Research Institute, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, but settled permanently in South Africa in 1983. He met his wife, Sandy, while working as a horticulturalist at Coromandel Farm in Lydenburg. Since 1988 the couple have managed the Buffelskloof Private Nature Reserve in Lydenburg, where they established a herbarium.
In 1992 John Burrows obtained an MSc in Plant Taxonomy at the University of Natal for his thesis on the taxonomy of the genus Ophioglossum L. in southern Africa. He is an honorary member of the Dendrological Society of South Africa and a recipient of the Marloth Medal from the Botanical Society of South Africa. In 1994 he formed the Plant Specialist Group, a group of amateur enthusiasts from Mpumalanga’s Lowveld and Escarpment region, which now attracts participants from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. He was also a co-leader of two SABONET expeditions, to Nyika Plateau, Malawi (2000) and Southern Mozambique (2001).
He began collecting pteridophytes after leaving school in 1969 and up until 1988, with the exception of the three-year survey at Inyanga, his collections have focused almost exclusively on pteridophytes and culminated in a monograph on Southern African Ferns and Fern Allies (1990). Since managing the reserve at Buffleskloof, he has collected all types of plants from the region and beyond, some 9300 specimens to date. One of the Burrows’ main research projects is on the figs of south-central and southern Africa, which has led to the collection of c. 700 specimens of Moraceae in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. He has also been working on the plants of the Nyika Plateau, trees and shrubs of Mpumalanga and Mozambique, and drift seeds of Eastern Africa