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Adolpho Ducke

Adolpho Ducke (1876-1959) was a Italian entomologist, botanist and ethnographer which became extremely respected due to his work in the Amazon.

Ducke preparing specimens at Utinga, near Belém, 1943

Ducke started his activities in the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi first as entomologist, but soon his interest came to include also botany, especially due to the rich tree flora of the Amazon.

Trees in the Amazon​

At the time, trees in that ecosystem were poorly known much because of unusual difficulties in collecting herbarium specimens, irregular flowering season and flowers hard to see because of the extreme height of the trees.

Ducke overcame the problem by watching the forest floor, searching for fallen flowers and fruits or by listening to the sounds of animals gathering honey or fruits. He also instructed local people on how to collect by climbing the trees and cutting off branches.

When additional botanical material were needed, such as flowers and fruits, he used to make repeated trips to revisit particular trees, often to distant localities. It was his persistence and patience that made his research so valuable.

Botanical carrier

During his fruitful botanical carrier, Ducke published almost 200 articles and monographs, most of them  about the family Leguminosae.

According to the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) Ducke described more than 1300 taxa, being 50 new genera, a remarkable accomplishment since the total number of tree species in the Amazon is currently estimated to ca.11,000.

The herbarium of the Swedish Museum of Natural History (S) houses approximately 650 type specimens collected by Ducke, being 550 of those types of taxa described by him.

Designated in honour

Ducke is celebrated in more than 150 species designated in his honour with epithets duckei, duckeanum or duckeana.

Ducke material is always well organized with specifications of the collection habitat, plant vernacular name, and sometimes with a short description in Latin of the plant and forest.

A nature reserve

Already in the 1950´s, Ducke was concerned about the future of the Amazonian forest, this led him to make a suggestion to the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) to establish a nature reserve.

Unfortunately, Ducke did not live to witness the fulfillment of his dream, but the reserve was established in 1963 and named in his honor as Reserva Florestal Adolpho Ducke. The botanical garden east of the city of Manaus and the phytochemical research laboratory at the museum in Belém were also named after him.