The Botany Division

Historical Notes



The Botany Division came to life in 1901 as the former Bureau of Government Laboratories and later the Bureau of Science. An American named Dr. Elmer Merrill gave form and substance to its first 20 years of existence, with the establishment of the Herbarium and Botanical Library and the conduct of numerous botanical expeditions all over the country. He was also responsible for many important publications, the most popular of which were the "Flora of Manila" and "An Enumeration of Philippine Flowering Plants".

Dr. Merrill likewise effected the creation of the Bureau of Science Herbarium, which later became a center for taxonomic research in the Southeast Asian Region, with more than a million specimens, of which several thousand species were described from the Philippines. The local specimens were mostly collected by Mamerto Sulit, G.E. Edano, G. Ramos and Americans Adolf Daniel Edward and Andrew Drew Elmer. For collection and study purposes, Dr. Merrill sent duplicates of these specimens to other foreign herbaria.

When Dr. Merrill returned to the U.S. in 1924, distinguished Filipino botanist Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing took over the Herbarium and Botanical Library and became the first Director of the Philippine National Museum. Unfortunately, the Second World War broke out in 1941 and completely destroyed all collections including the building itself.

After the war, Dr. Quisumbing started the big task of rehabilitating the Philippine National Herbarium, now under the National Museum. This necessitated the conduct of collecting expeditions, as well as exchanges, donations and purchases of new specimens. Within a span of 15 years, he was able to put up a modest botanical library through the purchase of three private libraries of famous botanists, namely: Beccari, Rehder and Gagnepain. With its rebirth, the Philippine National Herbarium (PNH) became the heart of the Botany Division, a repository of classified and identified Philippine plants and a rich source of working materials and references'for the intensive study of the plant resources of the country. Dr. Quisumbing likewise scored success in retrieving 76,983 specimens that were sent to foreign herbaria by Dr. Merrill before World War II.

This page was last modified Monday, February 10, 2014
National Museum of the Philippines
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