Collecting localities



Biographical data


Poivre, Pierre


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

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


Born: 1719, Lyons, France. Died: 1786, St Remain near Lyons, France.



Was educated in theology and went out to China as student missionary in 1739 or 1741, was thrown into prison but released again, staying there and in Cochin-China till 1745, using part of his time for making botanical studies and collecting plants. During the homeward voyage his ship was attacked by the English, and during the fight one of his arms was torn away; the prisoners were kept for some months in Java. He saw this unhappy accident as a token from Heaven that he was not destined for a clerical career, and decided to devote his further life to the study of geography, natural history, economy, etc. On his return (1748, after a stay in lie de France) he presented the results of his former studies to the French East India Company, by whom he was subsequently commissioned in 1749 to travel to Cochin-China, the Moluccas, the Philippines, and Madagascar.1 In the Philippines he succeeded in secretly procuring (buying from a Chinese) an amount of fresh nutmegs which he transmitted to Réunion; besides he made an agreement with the Governor of Portuguese Timor (in 1755), who was to deliver him as many spice plants as desired!2 In 1757 he was back in his native country, devoting the next decade to agriculture. From 1767-73 Intendant of Réunion (Bourbon) and Île de France; subsequently back to France.

He is commemorated in the genus Poivrea Comm.


Collecting localities:

1748-57.3 Sailing from France (Oct. 23, 1748); in the Malayan region visiting the Philippines: Luzon, Manila (May 25, 1751; sailing from there Febr. 21, 1753 and back again in Sept. 1754); sailing (Jan. 2, 1755) for Mindanao: Caldeira and Samboangan (= Zamboanga); Febr. 11 via Basilan Strait etc., along the coast of Celebes, Buton and Solor to Timor: Lifao (Apr. 10-May 1); Île de France; back in France (Apr. 22, 1757).

It is unknown to me whether he visited the Moluccas; he evidently visited Malacca.4



Herb. Paris [P] (with Herb. Jussieu); some of his plants erroneously labelled, e.g. a Rhodocolea mislabelled Timor, instead of Madagascar.5

His MSS in the Library of Lyons (France), and the Nat. Hist. Mus. Paris; also MSS in the library of Angers (France).6



(1) P. Poivre: ‘Voyages d’un Philosophe’ (Yverdon 1768; Paris, 3rd ed. 1786).

(2) cf. also ‘Nottes sur le contenu du pacquet marqué A. servant d’éclaircissement à quelques articles de la mission du Sr Lepoivre pour le service de la compagnie des Indes’ (in Archives Nationales, Paris, AJ15 511, no 456).

(3) cf. Short itinerary, literature and ‘Relation abrégrée des voyages faits par le Sieur (Poivre) pour le service de la compagnie des Indes, depuis 1748, jusqu’en 1757’ by Prof. Cordier in Revue d. Colon. Français. 1918, p. 5-88; and MS. at Paris.

According to Madeleine Ly-Tio-Fane, in ‘Mauritius and the Spice Islands’ (see sub BIOGR. DATA) not all the statements are reliable and less satisfactory details have been omitted or glossed over.

(4) cf. Lasègue, Mus. Bot. Deless., 1845, p. 449.

(5) cf. Perrier de la Bâthie in Ann. Mus. Col. Marseille 46 (5th series vol. 6), 1938, p. 28.

(6) A summary of Poivre’s observations on the cultivation of the spice plants at Isle de France (B. Angers, MS 612, p. 569, fig. 28).


biographical data:

A. Boullée: ‘Notice sur Poivre’ (Lyon 1835) (non vidi); Bull. Soc. Géogr. Lyon 8, 1889, p. 305-354; portr. in Steyert, Histoire de Lyon, 1895-99, 3 vols; Bretschneider, Hist. Bot. Discov. China, 1898, p. 117-118; Ann. Soc. Bot. Lyon 31, 1906, p. 34; Tijdschr. K.N.A.G. 1919, p. 370; in Fournier, Voyages et découvertes scientifiques etc., 1932, p. 88-90 + portr.; in Lacroix, Notice historique sur les membres et correspondents de l’Acad. d. Sci. etc., Paris 1934, p. 33-52; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; in M. Ly-Tio-Fane (ed.): ‘Mauritius and the Spice Trade. The Odyssey of Pierre Poivre’ (Publ. no 4, of the Mauritius Arch. Publ. Fund, Port Louis 1958, w. portr. and photogr. of seal); M. Ly-Tio-Fane: ‘Pierre Poivre et l’expansion français dans l’Indo-Pacifique’ (Bull. Ecole Franç. d’Extr.-Orient 53, 1967, p. 453-511, pl. I-XIV); ‘Commemoration du bi-centenaire de l’arrivée de Poivre a l’lle Maurice 1767-1967’ (Proc. R. Soc. Arts & Sci. Mauritius 3, 1968, p. 101-130); ‘Poivre’s contribution’ in ‘Mauritius and the Spice Trade’ II (The Triumph of Jean Nicolas Céré, Paris/The Hague 1970, p. 109-110).