Collecting localities



Biographical data


Low, Sir Hugh


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

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 8: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement II)


Born: 1824, Clapton, London, England. Died: 1905, Alassio, Riviera, Italy.1



[F.M. ser. 1, 8 (improved text)]: Trained to take over the Clapton Nursery, but then sent to the Orient for the collection of plants and seeds for his father (Hugh Low Sr)’s nursery at Clapton. He reached Singapore on Nov. 23, 1844, disembarked on the 25th. From 18-22 Dec. he met his brother Stuart there, and together they had one day’s collecting.7 On Jan. 1845 he arrived at Kuching, Sarawak, made friends with Rajah James Brooke, and with few breaks remained in Borneo for 28 years. Appointed Colonial Secretary of Labuan under Brooke in 1847, arrived there 1848, and stayed until 1876 (with leave in England in 1861 and 1876). Resident of Perak 1877-88 (introducing the first Hevea rubber to Malaya, and later to Singapore and Java); sent to Brunei to negotiate treaty with the sultan in 1889; retired to England 1889.


[F.M. ser. 1, 1 (old text)]: Obtained an appointment in the Hon. East India Company and travelled with Mr (Sir) James Brooke, which ended in his quickly resigning his Indian appointment and joining the Rajah as a secretary. Early in 1845 he sailed from Singapore to Sarawak.2 In 1848 Brooke became Acting Governor of Labuan; Low accompanied him and was appointed Colonial Secretary of the island. Later, 1877-89, Resident of Perak, residing at Taiping, and then taking a special interest in economic plants. In Borneo he mainly hunted for orchids, and ‘boenga Iau’ (from Low) became the common vernacular name for those plants in W. Borneo and the Anambas and Natoena Islands. Several plants were named in his honour.


Collecting localities:

Sailing from the West India Docks on July 17, apparently in 1844; staying at Singapore (end of Nov. 1844-Jan. 6, 1845) on his way to NW. Borneo: Sarawak (Jan. 14 or 16); trip with Brooke (see there) to Sinjawang (31), Toendoeng (Febr. 1), Rabat, valley of the Nawang (2), Rabat (3), and back at Sarawak (4). In the same year (1845) he explored the Sarawak River and its tributaries.3-In the following years probably visiting many places in Sarawak, e.g. Mt Penrissen.-He stayed for 30 months in Sarawak, being back in England in Oct. 1847.-From 1848-c. 77 in Labuan, from where he visited Lawas and Brunei in NW. Borneo, and made the 1st ascent of Mt Kinabalu in Br. N. Borneo (March 1851, summit on the 1 11th),4 climbing the mountain a 2nd and 3rd time with Sp. St John (see there) (Apr. (Low not on the summit) and July 1858);4 in Febr. 1858 climbing the Batu Rikan near the Mandalam River with Sp. St John.-Malay Peninsula: at Taiping Hills with Murton (see there) (Oct.19-22, 1877); Kedah Peak with Boxall (1880); Taiping (1881).5-c. 1882 he paid a visit to the Botanic Gardens at Buitenzorg, W. Java.



Herb. Kew [K]: complete set; duplicates at Cambridge [CGE]; dupl. Borneo Hepatic. in Herb. Leiden [L]. In 1881 he sent a collection specimens of forest trees in Taiping to Cantley, at that time on leave at Kew, for identification.5

His Borneo plants were identified by Sir J.D. Hooker and O. Stapf;6 the paper of Arnold (see liter. sub 2) mainly concerns the discoveries of Low, as described in his original diary.

Many living plants were sent to his father at the Clapton Nursery, London.

He also made entomological collections, among which some remarkable butterfly collections.



(1) According to Moulton in Sarawak Mus. Journ. 2, 1915, p. 142, Low retired in 1884 and died on the 18th of April, 1895. Probably he is wrong and I have relied on the biographies.

(2) H. Low: ‘Sarawak, its inhabitants and productions being notes during a residence in that country with his Excellency Mr. Brooke’ (London 1848, w. ill.).

R.E. Arnold: ‘Sir Hugh Low in Sarawak’ (Orch. Review 40, 1932, p. 163-166, 208-211, 236-238, 267-270, 292-294).

(3) cf. Posewitz, Borneo, 1889.

Cf. H. Low, Sarawak etc. (London 1848), p. 350-406.

(4) cf. ‘Notes of an ascent of the Mount Kina-Balow’ (Journ. Ind. Arch. & East. Asia 1852, p. 1-17); cf. also literature sub Sp. St John; itinerary Kinabalu trips in Sarawak Mus. Journ. 2, 1915, p. 139-144.

(5) cf. Burkill in Gard. Bull. Str. Settlem. 4, 1927, p. 154.

(6) New species from the Kinabalu etc. by J.D. Hooker in Icon. Plant. 9, 1852, t. 883-898; and in Transact. Linn. Soc. Bot. 22, 1859 and 1860, and 23, 1860.

O. Stapf: ‘On the flora of Mount Kinabalu, in North Borneo’ (Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 2nd ser. Bot. vol. 4, 1894, p. 69-263, pl. 11-20).

W.J. Hooker edited ‘Botanical extracts from Mr. Low’s ‘History of Borneo’’ in Curtis’s Bot. Magaz. 3rd ser. vol. 4, 1848, suppl. p. 16-21, 24-35 (economic plants!).

(7) C.F. Cowan: ‘Sir Hugh Low, G.C.M.G. (1824-1905)’ (J. Soc. Bibliogr. Nat. Hist. 4, 1968, p. 327-343).


biographical data:

Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. 1 17th Sess. Oct. 1905, p. 39-42; Agric. Bull. Str. & Fed. Mal. Stat. 4, 1905, p. 239; Orch. Review 13, 1905, p. 182-183; Gard. Chron. 3rd ser. 37, 1905, p. 264-265; Journ. Bot. 43, 1905, p. 192 and 3rd suppl. Biogr. Index Britten & Boulger p. 8 in l.c. 46, 1908, and in 2nd ed. by Rendle, 1931; Burkill in Gard. Bull. Str. Settlem. 4, 1927, nos 4-5; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; J. Soc. Bibliogr. Nat. Hist. 4, 1968, p. 327-343, w. portr. from 1848.