Bonvalot and d'Orléans in China

In 1889-1890 Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orléans embarked on a journey from Siberia through Tibet and Yunnan ending in Tonkin (Vietnam). See Map. A detailed map is also available. Bonvalot's account of the journey is in the book "De Paris au Tokin a Travers Le Tibet Inconnu" which is translated into English in "Across Thibet". They were accompanied by Father Constant de Deken who acted as interpreter. His account of the journey is detailed in the book "A Travers L'Asie".

Botanical specimens were collected on the expedition, including several Primula species. These were described by the French botanists Adrien Franchet and Édouard Bureau of the Paris Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in a document "Plantes Nouvelles du Thibet et de la Chine Occidentale". The species are Primula vittata (synonym of P. secundiflora), Primula leptopoda (synonym of P. stenocalyx), Primula diantha (collection date should read 1890 not 1860) Primula henrici and Primula pycnoloba. These all have specific collection dates, with the exception of P. pycnoloba, so using Bonvalot's book and the maps above, we can find the approximate type locations. All the type specimens are in the Paris herbarium.

Primula pycnoloba
Two other species were collected by Prince Henri d'Orléans on another trip, this time from Tonkin to Assam in 1895. See Map in the book "From Tonkin to India by the sources of the Irawadi". They are Primula cyclaminifolia (synonym of P. partschiana) and Primula microdonta (synonym of P. sikkimensis). Both species are listed as having been collected in 1894 in their original descriptions, but this is incorrect and should read 1895. The type for P. cyclaminifolia is P00649649 and a small label indicates it was collected on the 18th of March in Lami which corresponds to that given in the book. It is harder to decipher where P. microdonta was found as it is given only as "Mekong, June" but the month seems to relate to when the specimen was received at Paris, not when it was collected as there is a small label on the type herbarium sheet, P04544192 which says 14th September, col (undecipherable). At this date, Prince Henri was climbing out of the Mekong valley to the Salween via a pass to the south of Landjre (28°11'46.76"N 98°49'18.11"E) instead of following the pilgrimage route up the Dokar La.
Primula secundiflora
Read more about these Primula species in the Species Gallery. A recent popular book, Race to Tibet, is loosely the story of Bonvalot and Orléans' journey, with embellishments.

Pam Eveleigh © 2016


Post a Comment