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Late 17th century herbarium collections from the Canary Islands: The plants collected by James Cuninghame in La Palma

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Abstract:

James Cuninghame (ca. 1665–1709) was the first person to explore, collect and send back to the West significant numbers of Chinese plants and animals. During his first voyage to the Far East, this distinguished Scottish surgeon and naturalist stopped at the island of La Palma (Canary Islands). Although we do not know the exact dates of his arrival and departure, it is clear that Cuninghame was on the island during January and February 1698. During his stay, Cuninghame collected plant specimens which are now preserved in three volumes of the Sloane Herbarium (BM-SL). A five-folio manuscript (deposited in the Sloane Manuscript collection of the British Library) listing 62 plant entries also survives, together with fragmentary lists of names prepared by James Petiver (ca. 1658–1718), the main recipient of Cuninghame's Canarian collection. These specimens comprise the earliest documented herbarium collection made in the Canary Islands and are one of the most important pre-Linnaean sources for the Macaronesian flora. A study of these specimens and documents shows that Cuninghame collected/recorded material of 154 taxa including one lichen, nine bryophytes, 15 ferns, two gymnosperms, and 127 flowering plants. We were able to identify all but 16 of the herbarium specimens and one of Cuninghame's manuscript names below the rank of genus, and all but three of the specimens below family level.

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Unidad de Botánica, Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias, Puerto de La Cruz, Calle Retama Núm. 2, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain 38400 2: Department of Botany, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, U.K. 3: Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Center for Tropical Plant Conservation, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, Florida 33156, U.S.A., Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, University Park, Miami, Florida 33199, U.S.A. 4: Center for Tropical Plant Conservation, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, Florida 33156, U.S.A., Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, University Park, Miami, Florida 33199, U.S.A.;, Email: ortegaj@fiu.edu

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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