The botany of the three voyages of Captain James Cook in Macaronesia: an introduction

  • Articles in non-SCI journals - international
  • Dec, 2015

Francisco-Ortega, J., Santos-Guerra, A., Romeiras, M.M., Carine, M., Sánchez-Pinto, L. & Duarte, M.C. (2015) The Botany of the three voyages of Captain James Cook in Macaronesia: an Introduction. Revista de la Academia Canaria de Ciencias, 27, 357-410.


The British naval captain James Cook (1728-1779) was one of the most important figures in the history of scientific exploration. During the 18th century he was the only explorer to call on the four Macaronesian archipelagos. His first two visits were part of voyages that circumnavigated the globe and included celebrated naturalists, notably Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) and Daniel Solander (1733-1782) (first voyage) and Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-1798) and his son George Forster (1754-1794) (second voyage). Madeira was visited in both the first and second voyages, with the islands of Faial (Azores) and Santiago (Cape Verde) also visited during the second voyage. These two expeditions resulted in (1) extensive herbarium collections that were subsequently studied by European plant taxonomists, (2) an unpublished flora for Madeira (prepared by Solander), (3) the earliest known floristic treatment focusing only on several Atlantic Islands (Ascension, St. Helena and the Macaronesian islands of Faial, Madeira, and Santiago) (published by G. Forster in 1789), (4) the earliest known colored paintings of plants prepared in Madeira (by Sydney Parkinson (1710?-1771), during the first voyage) and in the Cape Verdes (by G. Forster), and (5) new species descriptions for the Madeira and Cape Verde flora (published by J.R. Forster and G. Forster in 1775 and by G. Forster in 1789). The third voyage had a more limited natural history scope but the plant collector David Nelson (unknown-1789) from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, was part of the expedition. The Resolution was the only ship to stop in Macaronesia, calling briefly at Santa Cruz de Tenerife. William Anderson (1750-1778), the ship’s surgeon and unofficial naturalist of the third voyage, wrote a short account of the natural history of this island with notes about its flora and main crops. No specimens collected during the visit have been found. Nelson was part of the crew of the second ship (The Discovery); and did not visit any of the Macaronesian Islands. Illustrations made by Sydney Parkinson and George Forster are presented and updated taxonomic identifications for the plants recorded in George Forster’s works are provided. Download Publication