History of Botanical research in Thailand


Pre 1920


J.G. Koenig was the first botanist to make cursory observations on the Thai flora. His Chloris Siamensis, a list of Thai plants, together with his diary, was translated into English and published more than 200 years after his death.


F.N. Williams (1904-1905) complied and published a list of plants known from Thailand. E. J. Schmidt edited the Flora of Koh Chang (1910-1916), which covered the whole plant kingdom, and was contributed to by a number of botanists of different nationalities.


A.F.G. Kerr published the result of his study, Flora of Doi Suthep, (1910), in the “Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information,: Kew (“Kew Bulletin”)


C.C. Hosseus published the result of his study on Thai plants. These were "Die aus Siam bekannten Acanthaceen" (1907), "Beitrage Zur Flora Siams" (1910), and "Die botanischen Ergebniss meiner Expedition nach Siam" (1911).


W.G. Craib, having studied Thai plants since 1907, published the result of his study, the List of Siamese plants with descriptions of new species (1911-1912) in the “Kew Bulletin”, and later "Contributions to the Flora of Siam (Dicotyledones)" (1912), and "Contributions to the Flora of Siam (Monocotyledones)" (1913), in the “Aberdeen University Studies". These latter publications are the forerunners of a series of "Contributions to the Flora of Siam". Additamenta were carried on by himself and his colleagues until 1938.


H.N. Ridley, after his botanical excursions in peninsular Thailand, published "An Account of a Botanical Expedition to Lower Siam" (1912); "The Plants of Koh Samui and Koh Pennang" (1915), and "On a Collection of Plants from Peninsular Siam" (1920).




During this period the activity of the study on the Flora of Thailand was accelerated. The leading figure was W. G. Craib, who started to edit Florae Siamensis Enumeratio, which was carried on after his death in 1934 by A. F. G. Kerr. This preliminary enumeration consists of three volumes, the last issue, (number three of volume three) was published in 1962 and terminated in the family Gesneriaceae, edited by E. C. Barnett.


Among Craib's colleagues, H. R. Fletcher actively made studies on Apocynaceae, Sapotaceae, Sarcospermaceae, Styraceae, Myrsinaceae, Ebenaceae, Symplocaceae, Boraginaceae (With A.F.G. Kerr) and Verbenaceae: D. G. Downie studied the orchids and published her work in 1925, based on a manuscript left by Rolffe.


E.C. Barnett studied the Fagaceae of Thailand and partly published her thesis in 1942; E. T. Geddes studied the Rubiaceae and published her result in 1927; J. B. Imlay studied the Acanthaceae and partly published her thesis in 1939.


A.F.G. Kerr continued to study the Thai flora, and edited the "Flora Siamensis Enumeratio", succeeding W. G. Craib. He did not live to complete this work. His manuscript of Volume Three was later edited by R. L. Pendleton (1951-1954) and E. C. Barnett (1962). He studied the Compositae, Ericaceae, Oleaceae, Asclepiadaceaea, Loganiaceae, Hydrophyllaceae, Boraginaceae (with H. R. Fletcher), Convolvulaceae, Solanaceae and Scrophulariaceae. He also studied the orchids, keeping separate serial numbers of his collection, and published part of it in 1927.


Phraya Vanaphruek Phichan published the "List of Common Trees and Shrubs of Siam" (1923).


H. R. Fletcher (1938) published "The Siamese Verbenaceae" in "Kew Bulletin" (1938) and published "Keys to the Siamese species of Myrsinaceae" in "Notes from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh 20(48): 106-120, 1948.


The Royal Forest Department published the Thai Plant Names, Botanical Names-Vernacular Names (1948).


Post 1950


After World War II Thai botanical research activity was revived and accelerated. The collections of Thai botanists began to accumulate and at the same time the rich and poorly known flora of Thailand attracted foreign botanists, resulting in many joint expeditions (e.g., Thai-Danish, Thai-Dutch and Thai-Japanese) as noted above.


The Thai-Danish botanical studies (1961-1969), by a number of botanists, edited by K. Larsen, were published in the "Dansk Botanisk Arkiv," covering various groups of plants.


Gunnar Seidenfaden and T. Smitinand published "Orchids of Thailand", a preliminary list (1959-1964). Seidenfaden then started the series of "Contributions to the Orchids of Thailand," published in "Dansk Botanisk Tiddsskrift" (1969-1977); and the series "Orchid Genera in Thailand," published in "Dansk Botanisk Arkiv" (1975-1989).


E. Nelmes published "The Genus Carex in Indo-China, including Thailand and Lower Burma" (1955) in "Memoire du Museum Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle" (Paris). M. Raymond published "Carices Indochinensis nec non Siamese" (1959) in "Memoire du Jardin Botanique," Montreal. J. Kern published "Cyperaceae of Thailand (Excl. Carex)" in "Reinwardtia" (1961-1962).


E. C. Barnett published "New species of the Gesneriaceae from Thailand" in the "Natural History Bulletin of Siam Society" (1961). R. Heim published "Contribution a la flore mycologique de la Thailande I." In "Revue Mycologique" (1962).


C. Grey-Wilson published "New plants record from Thailand" in "Kew Bulletin" 26 (1971). H. K. Airy Shaw (1971) published "The Euphorbiaceae of Siam" in "Kew Bulletin" 26.


The Flora of Thailand, with T. Smitinand and K. Larsen as editors, commenced in 1970 and continues today. The Flora started with Volume Two, completed in 1984. Volume One, (the introduction), is still postponed. Volume Two is devoted to various families, contributed by foreign and Thai botanists.


Since Number Six (1972) of the "Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany)," edited by T. Smitinand, a number of botanical papers have been contributed by Thai and foreign botanists.


In 1980, T. Smitinand published "Thai Plant Names" (Botanical Names-Vernacular Names).


References: Smitinand, T. 1989. Thailand. In Campbell, D.G. and H.D. Hammond (eds.) Floristic Inventory of Tropical Countries. The New York Botanical Garden: 63-82.


<back to top>