9.4.07

Mangrove Stamp, Mangrove in China and How Avicennia marina Got Its Name

Semarang - KeSEMaTBLOG. We find an interesting thing about mangrove in the book of Peter Saenger (2002) called Mangrove Ecology, Silviculture and Conservation. Let’s check this out!

1. Mangrove stamp
Did you know that in the Pacific Ocean Islands of Palau, there are mangrove stamp which featuring an artistic version of the mangroves and their associated fauna. Each individual stamp features one species of which the scientific name appears on the back of the sheet.

2. Mangrove in China
Rather than cut mangroves for firewood, the villagers of Hainan Island, China have discovered that the dried fronds of the mangrove fern have a high heat output and very convenient for domestic cooking fires.

3. How Avicennia marina got its name
The evergreen vegetation fringing the desert landscape of the Red Sea and the Arabian/Persian Gulf have long aroused curiosity; already in the fourth century BC. Theoprastus (the pupil of Plato and Aristotle) described the mangroves of the Red Sea in his Periphyton historia (Enquiry into Plants).

At around the same time, Admiral Nearchus, the commander of the fleet of Alexander the Great, described the mangroves of Tylos, present day Bahrain, while conducting a military reconnaissance between the Indus delta and the Euphrates.

Later in the eighteenth century, the Danish botanist Pehr Forsskal, a student of Linnaeus, commenced his extended exploratory travels to the Middle East in 1761. In his Flora Aegyptiaco-arabica (published in 1775, twelve years after his death from malaria near Sanaa, Yemen), he first described Avicennia marina, the most widely distributed of all mangrove species, from the Red Sea.

He called it Sceura marina to latinize, and perpetuate, the Arabic name of this species – schura, characterizing it as ‘…frequens in Insulin ad littoribus maris rubri…Folia pabulum praebent Camelis, asinis, ovibus narrarunt’.

Unbeknown to Forsskal, his mentor had described a plant from India in his 1753 Species Plantarum as Avicennia officinalis – after the famous Persian philosopher-scientist of Islam, Avicennia or Ibn Sina, author of a Book of Healing, which was the medical authority in Europe for several centuries.

Ultimately, Sceura marina became Avicennia marina, thus combining the generic name of Linnaeus, the master, with the specific name of Forsskal, the loyal student! Additionally, but quite fortuitously, the Middle Eastern connection was also maintained in the new name.