Botanist, famed explorer honored

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Mar 6, 2009

The UH Manoa Herbarium has been named in honor of Joseph Francis Charles Rock, considered by many to be the father of Hawaiian botany. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1884, Rock arrived to Honolulu in 1907 at the age of 23, when he became the Territory‘s first botanist. He was appointed a UH faculty member in 1911 and was responsible for creating the first university herbarium. He served as curator from 1911-1920, and quickly became an authority on the local flora. His botanical knowledge was largely self-taught, nevertheless, Rock's contributions to Hawaiian botany were significant. He was responsible for planting more than 500 species of plants on the grounds of the Manoa campus, with many of these trees still growing on the landscape.

Over the 12 years he spent exploring Hawaii and plant collecting, he published 56 papers and described many new plant species. In 1920, he left UH to spend the next three decades in active exploration and research for the National Geographic Society, studying the flora, peoples and languages of China, Tibet, Burma and Thailand. In April 1962, UH honored Rock with a Doctor of Science degree. He died in Honolulu on December 7, 1962, at the age of 79.

Botany Department Chairperson Dr. Tom Ranker said, "Almost 100 years after the herbarium's collections were started, it is timely to honor Joseph Rock not only as a pioneering botanist and plant explorer but also for his many scientific contributions in linguistics, philology, history, geography and anthropology. He was a man of wide interests, talent and vision."

For more information, please contact Tom Ranker, Joseph F. Rock Herbarium, UH Manoa, Department of Botany, St. John Plant Science Laboratory, 3190 Maile Way, Room 101. Tel: (808) 956-4168,

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