Collecting localities



Biographical data

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Fortune, Robert


(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 1: Cyclopaedia of collectors)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 5: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement I)


Born: 1812 (not 1813), Kelloe, Edron, Berwick, Scotland. Died: 1880, Brompton, Scotland.



Horticulturist, at first in the employ of the Botanic Garden at Edinburgh, in 1842 transferred to the garden of the Roy. Horticultural Society at Chiswick; for the latter Society travelling to China (1843-46) to collect plants.1 In 1846-48 Curator of the Botanic Garden at Chelsea; from 1848-51 he was sent to China for the 2nd time, now by the E.I.C., with the special object of collecting seeds and plants of tea.2 In later years he once more visited China (1853-56)3 and Japan (1858 or 1860-62).4

Excellent plant introducer. Author of many papers.5 At his death his entire collection of notes and diaries was destroyed by his family.

Rosa fortuneana Lindl. was named after him.


Collecting localities:

1843-46. On the outward voyage to China, touching at W. Java: Anjer (June 15-16, 1843);6 from China sailing (beginning of Jan. 1845) for the Philippines,7 staving a short time at Manila (Luzon); visiting Laguna, St. Pablo, Dolores, St. Pablo again, in total spending 3 weeks in the interior, collecting Phalaenopsis etc.; leaving again on March 14, returning to China once more; back in London on May 5, 1846.



Living and dried material distributed by the Roy. Hort. Soc.; Herb. Kew [K] (pres. 1843-50; and in 1872 with Herb. Bentham the nos 1-182 and A 1-A 327 (1846)); Herb. Brit. Mus. [BM]: 549 nos from China; Herb. Cambridge [CGE]; Herb. Decand. (Geneva [G]): 300 nos; Herb. Deless. (Geneva [G]): 53 nos (pres. 1846); Herb. Berl. [B]: from China and Japan, partly numbered;8 Herb. v. Heurck (= Antwerp [AWH]): Japanese plants; Herb. Bot. Gard. St Petersb. (= Leningrad [LE]): ‘Plantae chinensis’ (200); in Herb. Vienna [W] and Herb. St Louis Miss. Bot. Gard. [MO]. Fortune’s collection of the Roy. Hort. Soc. (coll. 1845, 181 nos, mainly from China) was bought by Planchon in 1856;9 now in Herb. Paris [P]. Sets of his China plants were offered for sale. The plants cited by Merrill in Enum. Philip. Fl. Pl. are without number. In Java he is cited to have collected a fine variety of Dendrobium secundum.10

His letters are at the Roy. Hort. Society.



(1) R. Fortune: ‘Three years’ wanderings in the northern provinces of China, including a visit to the Tea, Silk and Cotton Countries. With an account of the agriculture and horticulture of the Chinese, new plants, etc.’ (London 1847); transl. into German: ‘Wanderungen in China in den Jahren 1843 his 1845’ (Leipzig 1854).

(2) R. Fortune: ‘A journey to the Tea Countries of China; including Sung-Le and the Bohea Hills’ (London 1852).

cf. also in Athenaeum April 1854.

(3) R. Fortune: ‘A residence among the Chinese’ (London 1857).

(4) R. Fortune: ‘A narrative of a journey to the capitals of Japan and China’ (London 1863).

(5) cf. in Merrill & Walker, Bibliogr. of East. Asiat. Bot., 1938.

(6) cf. Letters in Revue Britannique Nov. 1843, p. 218-222.

(7) cf. ‘Three years’ wanderings’ l.c. sub 1, Chapt. XVIII, p. 332-345.

(8) cf. E. Bretschneider: ‘On some old collections of Chinese plants’ (Journ. Bot. 32, 1894, p. 295-296).

(9) cf. Journ. Bot. 32, 1894, p. 298-299.

(10) cf. Gard. Chron. 18801, p. 488; and Rev. Hort. Belge 6, 1880, p. 272 (footnote).


biographical data:

Journ. Bot. 18, 1880, p. 160; Gard. Chron. 1880’, p. 487-489; Rev. Hort. Belge 6, 1880, p. 272-274; Biogr. Index Britten & Boulger in Journ. Bot. 26, 1888, p. 374 and in 2nd ed. by Rendle, 1931; Rev. Hort. Belge 19, 1893, p. 198-199; Bretschneider, Hist. Bot. Discov. China, 1898, p. 403-518; New Fl. & Silva 8, 1936, p. 172-179 (including data on his expeditions and a list of 48 plants introduced by him); Bcker, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 156, 1943, p. 8-16; in E.H.M. Cox, Planthunting in China, 1945, p. 76-92, portr. pl. 5; J. R. Hort. Soc. 80, 1955, p. 265-269, 276-280.


photo gallery:

Country Life, Sep. 29, 1983