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F.M. Blanco (1778-1845) by D.H. Nicolson & J.F. Veldkamp

Francisco Manuel Blanco, an Augustinian friar, stationed in the Philippines from 1805 to his death (1845), published a Flora de Filipinas (1837, 1845). Antonio Llanos (1806--1881) & Andres Naves (1839--1910) published a folio third edition (1877--1883). Original material of Blanco's names of new taxa in these publications did not survive, according to E.D. Merrill (1918: 31) who said: "It is a well-known fact that Blanco did not permanently preserve botanical material, although it seems probable that he did preserve temporarily some specimens, which in the course of time were destroyed, as their value was not realized. Most of his descriptions were based on fresh material collected by himself or brought to him by other persons; but some descriptions were based on dried specimens received from his various colleagues, notably from Azaola, and later from Llanos." (about collections of Blanco and Llanos, see Veldkamp, 1989).

Following the Spanish-American War (1895--1898) the Philippine Islands were ceded to the United States. Elmer Drew Merrill (1876--1956) arrived in 1902 and began an intensive collecting program and important publications on Philippine plants. Merrill (1918) published his major commentary on all of Blanco's species. With few exceptions, Merrill cited what he called an "illustrative specimen" for each of Blanco's names. Those for names of new taxa functioned as replacements for the lost original material (but are not to be regarded as formal neotypifications, as defined in the ICBN Art. 9. JFV).

In his introduction, Merrill (1918: 36) wrote: "In 1912 it occurred to me that, as Blanco preserved no botanical material, the preparation of an exsiccata to consist of specimens that should represent the various species described by him, as these were understood by me after long experience in the field and a critical study of each individual description, would be very desirable. It was realized that the distribution of such an exsiccata to the larger botanical institutions would do much to fix the status of Blanco's species, provided the work of selection was critically done. ... In other words a critically prepared exsiccata would supply a fairly dependable series of specimens that to a large degree would take the place of Blanco's 'types' which were never preserved."

It is probably generally assumed that Merrill's first set was retained in the Philippines and had been lost with the destruction of the Manila Herbarium (PNH) near the end of WW II.

However, in 1917 Merrill sent a set of the specimens to William Ralph Maxon (1877--1948), associate curator at the Smithsonian Herbarium (US), with the following correspondence:

1. If possible I wish that you would have the set now in Washington mounted and arranged numerically. When this matter was discussed with you at the time I was in Washington you expressed serious objection to attaching to the sheets the numerous data with most of the numbers [i.e. specimens]. It is absolutely necessary that the data with the set in Washington be attached to the specimen[s] at least until the publication which I expect to issue in connection with this exsiccata be printed for [i.e., because] all original data is with the first 900 numbers that you have and in some cases I cannot connect my manuscript with certain numbers without reference to the data accompanying the specimens that are in Washington.

2. In case you do not feel that the data supplied with the first 900 numbers of the Species Blancoanae can be preserved with the specimens, then please do not have this material mounted for it will be necessary to have this set returned to Manila and replaced by a set of duplicates without anything but the number.

As a result, US has almost all of these illustrative specimens. Its Species Blancoanae Query Page is available to facilitate the investigation of these specimens by other researchers. Specimen images are available for essentially all of Blanco's names of new species.

In the case of neotypifying Blanco names it seems best to regard the US duplicate as the holotype, as it is the only one with any original field labels, giving the collector, full date and more precise locality of the collection, information omitted or condensed in Merrill's publication.


Blanco, F.M. 1837. Flora de Filipinas: lxxviii, 887 pp. Manila.
Blanco, F.M. 1845. Flora de Filipinas, ed. 2: lix, 619 pp. Manila.
Llanos, A. & A. Naves (Eds.). 1877--1883. Flora de Filipinas, ed. 3, 4 vols. Manila.
Merrill, E.D. 1918. Species Blancoanae: a critical revision of the Philippine species of plants described by Blanco and by Llanos. Bur. Sci. Publ. 12: 1--423.
Nicolson, D.H. & D. Arculus. 2001. Candidates for neotypification of Blanco's names of Philippine plants: specimens in the U.S. National Herbarium. Taxon 50: 947--954.
Veldkamp, J.F. 1989. A note on Philippine collections of F.M. Blanco and A. Llanos. Fl. Males. Bull. 10: 143--145.

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