Vernon H. Heywood
João Manuel António Paes do Amaral Franco
(25 June 1921 – 8 May 2009)
The death of Professor João do Amaral
Franco at the age of 89 is a tragic loss for
Portuguese botany and will be lamented by
friends and colleagues throughout Europe
and the Mediterranean.
Professor Amaral Franco can be
described as the patriarch of Portuguese
botany. A student of Professor João
Carvalho e Vasconcelos (1897–1972) and
partly contemporaneous with Professor
Antonio Xavier Pereira Coutinho
(1851–1939), he represented the end of a
line of eminent botanists that lasted over a
century. His professional life was inti-
mately linked with the Instituto Superior
de Agronomia of Lisbon where he served
throughout his long and illustrious career.
He trained there as an agronomist
(Engenheiro Agronómico) and was
appointed a second assistant in 1945, later
to be in charge of botanical studies from
1950 until his retirement in 1991, initially
as an Aggregate Professor until 1967 when
he was nominated Extraordinary Professor
and in the 1980s Full Professor (professor Catedrático). He trained and influenced gener-
ations of agronomists and foresters.
His botanical research started in the 1940s when he was still a student. He showed an apti-
tude for plant taxonomy, and was initially interested especially in conifers and published a series
of papers, the first of them in 1940, on Araucariaceae, Picea, Sequoia, Chamarcyparis, amongst
others and in 1943 published his 244 page Dendrologia Florestal, still cited today as a major ref-
erence work on the trees of Portugal. His interest in conifers and tree taxonomy and sylviculture
continued throughout his life and extended to other parts of the world such as the Himalayas,
Nepal and China, publishing an extensive series of papers on diverse genera. He later extended
his interests in tree taxonomy to various angiosperm groups such as Quercus and Salix.
João Manuel António Paes do Amaral Franco
(Photo by Miguel Pinto da Silva Menezes de
From 1947 to 1952 Amaral Franco made regular visits to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
and the Natural History Museum in London and was fluent in English. He was very much
open to international initiatives, even during a period when this was unusual for Portuguese
(and Spanish) scientists. He was a strong supporter of Flora Europaea, writing accounts of
several genera in volume 1 and later volumes and when invited to become a Regional Adviser
for Portugal, he accepted with alacrity and dedicated himself with great enthusiasm to review-
ing the draft accounts to which he contributed many valuable comments. He published a series
of papers in the Flora Europaeae Notulae Systematicae published in Feddes Repertorium. In
this work on Flora Europaea he collaborated with the agronomist and distinguished taxono-
mist António Rodrigo Pinto da Silva who was also a Regional Adviser of Flora Europaea. He
also participated actively in the work of the Atlas Florae Europaeae. From 1965, he began a
long-standing and close collaboration with Dr Maria da Luz Rocha Afonso who also assisted
him in his work as a Regional Adviser for Flora Europaea. Later, Professor Amaral Franco
also contributed to the Flora Iberica project and to Med-Checklist.
Following a suggestion I made to him in 1968, he started preparation of a Portuguese trans-
lation of the text of the first two volumes of Flora Europaea as far as the species occurring in
Portugal were concerned. This was published as the Nova Flora de Portugal volume 1 in 1971
followed by volume 2 in 1984, corresponding to volumes 3 and 4 of Flora Europaea and (in
collaboration with Dr Rocha Afonso) volume 3 part 1 in 1994, part 2 in 1998, and part 3 in
2003. This was not just a simple translation and adaptation of Flora Europaea for Portugal but
contained a considerable amount of new material and revision to bring it up to date. The Nova
Flora remains the standard reference work for the Portuguese flora.
He was essentially an outstanding classical taxonomist whose work was based on exten-
sive field collecting, detailed herbarium studies and a deep knowledge of the literature. A
botanical scholar, he insisted on the highest standards both in his own work and that of his stu-
dents and wielded a fierce editorial pen.
In addition to his extensive taxonomic work, he published a considerable number of bio-
geographical, phytogeographical and chorological studies1.
After his retirement in 1991 he continued his taxonomic and phytogeographical work and
published an impressive number of important books and papers. He contributed to the revi-
sion of Flora Europaea volume 1 and also prepared a revised edition of volume 1 of the Nova
Flora de Portugal and was working on the revision of later volumes until shortly before his
death. João do Amaral Franco was a man of great personal charm and a most generous host
and I still recall some of the memorable meals I shared with him on various visits to Portugal.
Having known him as a friend and colleague for over 50 years, I feel a deep sense of loss. He
died in the year 2009 which also saw the loss of Professor César Gómez Campo and Professor
Santiago Castroviejo – a sad year indeed for Iberian botany.
Address of the author:
Vernon H Heywood
Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics, Plant Science Laboratories, The University
of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS, UK.
1For a detailed account of his achievements and publications, consult Miguel Menezes de Sequeira,
Os herbários e a obra do taxonomista João do Amaral Franco, Boletin de la AIHM 8-9: 31–47 (2007).
344 Heywood: João Manuel António Paes do Amaral Franco