Francisco-Ortega and the Canary Islands

Dr. David Fairchild, Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega and the Canary Islands

Phoenix canariensis and Dracaena draco
Phoenix canariensis and Dracaena draco as pictured by David Fairchild in 1926.

Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega's appointment as a member of the Instituto de Estudios Canarios (IEC) led to the decision to focus the photo scanning project on images of Dr. David Fairchild's trips to the Canary Islands. The IEC is the Canaries' oldest research organization, and Francisco-Ortega's appointment began in December 2010. For Francisco-Ortega, Fairchild Challenge program manager, head of the FIU/Fairchild Plant Molecular Systematics Laboratory and a native of the Canaries, this is a great honor that recognizes the value of his life's work to-date.

Upon receiving news of the appointment, he decided to focus his acceptance talk on Dr. Fairchild's trips to the islands. He contacted Nancy Korber, librarian/archivist at Fairchild, to see if there were a few images he could use and maybe some information on the trips. He was surprised and pleased to learn that, because of the ongoing scanning project, there were already approximately 200 images from those trips available. Nancy showed him the images and he was able to recognize the locations of many of the photos. There is even a 1926 photo of an ancient Dracaena draco, Canary Islands dragon tree, standing next to a Phoenix canariensis, Canary Island date palm, which, according to Dr. Francisco-Ortega, still exist.

Dr. Fairchild visited the Canary Islands once with Barbour Lathrop in 1903 and three times during the Allison V. Armour expeditions aboard The Utowana. "David Fairchild's images of the Canary Islands are unique not only because of their botanical importance but because they provide a unique perspective of the daily life of the countryside of the Canary Islands in the early 20th Century," Francisco-Ortega says. "No other early plant explorer who visited the Canaries provided such a valuable photographic record of our horticultural systems, landscapes, villages and the way of life of the people of the Canaries as David Fairchild."

When all the images are indexed and scanned, Fairchild will have an incredible pictorial and written record of the Canary Islands' botanic and cultural history in the early 20th Century. For future scientists and researchers, this will prove to be quite a treasure trove of information. 

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Unless otherwise stated, all photographs on this page property of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Please contact the Archivist for permission to use or reproduce photographs.

Please contact:
Nancy Korber
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Center for Tropical Plant Conservation
11935 Old Cutler Road
Miami, Florida 33156 USA
tel. 305/667-1651, ext. 3424
fax 305/665-8032