Collecting localities



Biographical data


Wilkes, Charles


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


Born: 1798, New York, U.S.A. Died: 1877, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.



Naval officer; Commander of the U.S. Exploring Expedition from 1838-42,1 which was equipped in the interests of whale fishery in southern seas, and besides was instructed to make scientific observations in every branch of natural history. He entered the service of the American Navy in 1818, and was pensioned off with the rank of Rear-Admiral in 1866.

Some plants were named after him, and the genus Wilkesia A.Gray.


Collecting localities:

Wilkes U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-42, in the ‘Peacock’, ‘Porpoise’, etc.1 2 Leaving the American coast (Aug. 25, 1838); Madeira, Cape Verde Islands, S. America, Tahiti, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Sandwich Islands, N. and S. America; part of the expedition was near Luzon (Philippines) as early as Nov. 1841, while another part still visited the Carolines before joining the others at Manila; Merrill2 cites the following data on trips in the Philippines: Luzon: Manila (Jan. 13-19, 1842), collecting in the vicinity of the city and on a trip inland up the Pasig River and across Laguna de Bay; Pickering (see there) and Eld proceeded to Santa Cruz and Majaijai, from the latter place ascending Mt Majaijai (= Banajao) (Jan. 17), while Rich (see there), Dana and Brackenridge (see there) went to the town of Bay with the object of proceeding to Taal Volcano, but finding the latter trip impractible they went to Los Baños and made a partial ascent of Mt Maquiling, being later joined by Pickering and Eld and then returning to Manila; leaving Manila (20) and sailing southward; Mindanao: Caldera near Zamboanga (31); Soung (= Jolo) on the Island of Sulu or Jolo (Febr. 4-5, also visiting Marangas islet); Mangsee (= Mangsi) Islands (Febr. 8-12), between Balabac and Banguey Island; Singapore (19-25) (other ships of the expedition had arrived on Jan. 22, and Febr. 16); proceeding through the straits of Banka and Sunda to the Cape of Good Hope, St Helena, etc., reaching New York in June 1842.



The botanical collections were made by William Rich, the botanist of the expedition, by J.D. Brackenridge, assistant-botanist, and by Ch. Pickering, zoologist (see those).3 Possibly the actual collectors are not mentioned on the labels, the plants are generally cited as collected by ‘Wilkes U.S. Expl. Expedition’. The 1st set in U.S. Nat. Herb. Wash. [US] even lacks many specimens; partial sets in Gray Herb. (Cambr., Mass. [GH]); Herb. Columbia Univ. (on loan in Herb. N. Y. Bot. Gard. [NY]); Herb. N.Y. Bot. Gard. [NY]: 40 nos+set Columbia Univers. + set 1900 by Mr John J. Crooke; Herb. Missouri Bot. Gard. St Louis [MO], Herb. Kew [K], Herb. Vienna [W] (orchids with Herb. Reichenbach); ? Herb. Philadelphia [PH]: plants Orient voyage, 1844-45;4 Herb. Bot. Gard. St Petersb. (= Leningrad [LE]): 176 plants with Herb. Gray, etc. In total about 9674 nos comprising 50.000 specimens have been collected; they include 381 nos from Luzon, 102 from Mindanao, 58 from the Sulu Islands, 80 from Mangsee, and 80 from Singapore.5

According to Merrill it seems evident that a considerable number of the Wilkes Expedition Philippine flowering plants are no longer extant.6

Numerous papers on the collections were published.7



(1) Several volumes of the ‘Wilkes U.S. Exploring Expedition’ were published officially and unofficially. Ch. Wilkes is the author of the ‘Narrative’ (vol. 1-5, 1844 + atlas) and of the hydrographical and meteorological results.

Ch. Wilkes: ‘Voyage round the world, embracing the principal events of the narrative of the U.S.’s Exploring Expedition’ (New York 1851); and numerous other, unofficial, issues in 5 or less volumes.

F.S. Collins: ‘The botanical and other papers of the Wilkes Exploring Expedition’ (Rhodora 14, 1912, p. 57-68).

D.C. Haskell: ‘The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 and its publications 1844-1874’ (Bull. N.Y. Public Library 44, 1940, p. 93-112, prelim. publ.; New York 1942).

‘Centenary celebration. The Wilkes exploring expedition of the United States Navy’ (Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 82, 1940, p. 517-800; by several authors, e.g. H.H. Bartlett).

(2) Data partly derived from: Lasègue, Mus. Bot. Deless., 1845, p. 388-389; Martius, Flor. Bras., vol. l, pars 1, p. 144-146; Merrill in Philip. Journ. Sci. C. But. 3, 1908, p. 73 seq.

(3) cf. Merrill, A discussion and bibliography of Philip. Flow. Plants (vol. 4 of Enum. Philip. Fl. Pl., 1926), p. 49.

(4) cf. Bull. Torr. Bot. Club N.Y. 8, 1881, p. 42-44.

(5) cf. Bot. Zeitung 1, 1843, p. 750-751; Lasègue, Mus. Bot. Deless., 1845, p. 389; and H.H. Bartlett in Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc. 82, 1940, p. 678.

(6) Pickering mentions in his ‘The geographical distribution of Animals and Plants’, many species of Philippine plants (pt 2, 1876, p. 491-524 in unofficial issue of vol. 19 of the Wilkes Expl. Exp.) hitherto not found in the herbaria. The book ends abruptly at page 524 in the list of Mangsee plants, and apparently no more was published. This enumeration of plants, incl. ferns, is for the most part with identifications to the genus or family only.

(7) Asa Gray: ‘Botany of the U.S. Expl. Exp. during the years 1838-42 under the Command of Capt. Wilkes, U.S.N.. Phanerogamia vol. 1’ (vol. 15 of the whole, 1854, p. 1-777, + atlas, pl. 1-100), and other issues.

W.D. Brackenridge: ‘Botany, Cryptogamia, Filices including Lycopodiaceae and Hydropterides’ (vol. 16 l.c., 1854; atlas 1855).

The mosses by W.S. Sullivant in Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts Sci. 3, 1855, p. 181-185, and in the publications of the ‘Wilkes Expedition’ (1859, p. 1-32, pl. 1-26; corresponding with the missing p. 1-112 of vol. 17).

A. Gray: ‘Characters of new and obscure species of plants of the monopetalous orders in the collection of the U.S. South Pacif. Expl. Exp. under Capt. Ch. Wilkes, U.S.N., with occasional remarks, etc.’ (Proc. Americ. Acad. 5, 1862, p. 321-352; the only Philippine plant mentioned is Gaultheria luzonica A.Gray on p. 324).

‘Botany’ (no author’s name) (vol. 17 of the whole, 1874, + atlas, 29 pl.).

H.G. Reichenbach: ‘Orchideae Wilkesianae indescriptae’ (Xenia Orch. 3, 1878, p. 27-32; Otia Bot. Hamburg 1, 1878, p. 50-56).

J.H. Maiden: ‘On the identification of a species of Eucalyptus from the Philippines’ (Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 26, 1903, p. 691-692).

E.D. Merrill: ‘The Philippine plants collected by the Wilkes U.S. Exploring Expedition’ (Philip. Journ. Sci. C. Bot. 3, 1908, p. 73-84, pl. 1-4).


biographical data:

Portr. in Wilkes, Narrative l.c. vol. 1; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; portr. in D.C. Haskell, The U.S. Expl. Exp., 1838-1842, and its publications 1844-1874 (New York 1942). His autobiography etc. is in the MSS division of Library of Congress, Washington.