Richard Spruce (1817-1892)
Dr Richard Spruce collected extensively for Kew in the Amazon
and in the Andes. Of the thousands of plants that he collected,
the most important were undoubtedly from the genus Cinchona from
which quinine bark was harvested. Cinchona trees in the
wild grow only beyond the Amazon basin on the Eastern slopes
of the Andes. Just reaching these almost inaccessible areas, let
alone bringing back living material, demanded great courage and
Infusions of Cinchona bark were so effective against
malaria that even species with a low yield would save lives. Spruce
successfully gathered one such species, Cinchona pubescens.
At Kew it was propagated for plantations in India and Ceylon (now
Cinchona bark remains a major source of quinine today
and its numerous alkaloids are the subject of continuing medical
research. Meanwhile its use as a flavouring ingredient in tonic
water (once medicinal) still accounts for nearly half the harvest.
C. pubescens can be found in the Temperate House.
Sprucea (now Simira) and the liverwort Sprucella are
named in his honour.
Associate of the Linnean Society 1893
to: Ernest Wilson