The Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium


Herbarium Catalogue




(N.B. Please note that there are a number of facts in this publication which are no longer considered correct: A.Henry was born in Dundee in 1857. He retired from his post as Professor of Forestry in 1926).

Augustine Henry was born in County Derry, Ireland, in 1857. After receiving his early education at Cookstown Academy in the neighbouring County Tyrone he proceeded to Queen's College, Galway, where he won several scholarships. He graduated in the Queen's University, Belfast, as B.A. in 1877 and M.A. in 1878; on each occasion obtaining first class honours. He studied Medicine and obtained the M.D. degree but practically abandoned this profession when in 1881 he entered the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service at Shanghai. Subsequently he served at various centres in the provinces of Hupeh, Szechuan and Yunnan and in the Island of Formosa.

While in China Dr. Henry became interested in plants, and from 1885 onwards he devoted his spare time to studying and collecting the native vegetation in those parts of China and Formosa where he was stationed. When Dr. Henry commenced collecting, the flora of central China was virtually unknown outside China itself and his collections revealed for the first time the richness of the flora of the region. By 1896 no fewer than 25 new genera and about 500 new species had been described from the material he sent home. Henry sent his collections to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and it is estimated that in all they totalled about 158,000 specimens representing some 15,700 numbers. The first set of specimens was retained at Kew, and the duplicates were distributed to other herbaria in various parts of the world. This immense collection could not have been made single-handed, and, in fact, Henry employed native collectors to help him as is explained in the account given in Bretschneider's History of European Botanical Discoveries in China.

Returning to Europe in 1900 he spent two years at the French National School of Forestry at Nancy. In 1903 he started writing in collaboration with the late Henry J. Elwes, F.R.S., The Trees of Great Britain and Ireland, a work consisting of seven volumes which they completed in 1913.

In 1907 Dr. Henry took up a post newly established at Cambridge University where he remained for six years and helped to establish the School of Forestry. With the assistance of Mr. Elwes he collected sufficient funds to have a Chair of Forestry established. In 1913 Dr. Henry accepted an invitation to come over to Ireland as Professor of Forestry at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, saying at the time he would like to do some work for his own country. This appointment he held until his death in 1930. During his life Dr. Henry was an acknowledged authority on trees and he left behind him a reputation which few others have attained.

At the time of his death Dr. Henry had in his own private collection approximately ten thousand specimens. His widow, Mrs. Alice H. Henry, assembled and arranged them, a task that took her eight years to complete. She then presented the specimens under “Deed of Gift” to the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, the collection to be known as “The Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium”. Mrs. Henry, realising that a catalogue of the specimens would be helpful to students and others studying the collection, was instrumental in having this work undertaken. It is to be regretted she did not live to see it completed. She died in Dublin in March, 1956.

As already mentioned, the first set of Dr. Henry's Chinese plants is at Kew, but "The Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium" contains many duplicates, as well as material of native plants from other collectors in various parts of the world. These collections are enumerated in the usual way in this catalogue, the locality being given as well as the collector's name and number, if any.

A large percentage of the Herbarium comprises material from cultivated trees, and this is recorded in the catalogue simply under the country where the plant was grown-to have given full details would have increased the size of the catalogue unduly.

Some of the specimens in the Herbarium are fragmentary, and some are sterile. It has been thought advisable to indicate this in the catalogue, and an appropriate note will be found where such material is recorded.

The material used by Elwes and Henry when writing their Trees of Great Britain and Ireland is to be found at Kew, but, as notes on the shoots indicate, many of the specimens in “The Augustine Henry Forestry Herbarium” were also examined by the authors in the course of their work.

A number of the specimens had to be submitted to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, for confirmatory verification and identification. Thanks are due to these institutions as well as to the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, U.S.A., for verifying, locating and correcting plant collectors' numbers. Special thanks are due to Mr. J. Robert Seally, B.Sc., F.L.S., The Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for his advice and for his help in overcoming many difficulties met with during the preparation of this catalogue.

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin,
January, 1957