The University of North Carolina Herbarium
(NCU) has 15 fungal specimens and 3 vascular plant specimens collected by Eugène Poilane. As our vascular plant collection continues
to be inventoried, it is likely that more specimens collected by Poilane will be found.
According to the Harvard Herbaria database of
botanists, other herbaria that hold Poilane’s
specimens include A (Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University in Massachusetts),
B (Botanischer Garten und
Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem,
Zentraleinrichtung der Freien
Universitat Berlin), BR (National Botanic Garden of
Belgium in Meise), DAO (Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa), E (Royal Botanic Garden
Edinburgh in Scotland), F (Field Museum in Chicago), G (Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville
in Switzerland), L (Nationaal Herbarium Nederland,
Leiden University), NY (New York Botanical Garden in the United States), P
and PC (Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris), and US (Smithsonian Institution in
the United States).
is endemic to northwest Vietnam and northwest Laos
photo from hwhyde.co.uk
Prados, John and Ray W. Stubbe
of Decision: The Siege of Khe Sanh. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 25-26.
Khe Sanh village existed as a
result of the presence of French coffee planters. It began with Eugène
Poilane, a son of peasants, born at Saint-Sauveur de Landemont, France,
on March 16, 1888. Poilane,
by profession an “artillery worker,” arrived in South Vietnam, then the
French protectorate of Cochinchina, in 1909. He worked at the naval arsenal for some
years, until he chanced to meet naturalist Auguste
Chevalier, who after the First World War appointed Poilane
as a prospector for the Botanical Institute.
In 1922 Poilane became an agent of the
Forest Service of Indochina.
Eugène Poilane first passed
through what became Khe Sanh
village in 1918, when it consisted of only one house, that of the engineer
supervising construction of Colonial Route 9, the first metaled road to
Laos. Like the Americans who followed,
he was captivated by the lush vegetation and thought the red soil as fine as
anything in Tuscany. He returned in
1926 to start a coffee plantation, importing chiari
coffee trees and tending them for the ten years they need to become
productive. His plantation extended
throughout the area subsequently occupied by Khe Sanh combat base.
In fact, the access road from the base airfield to Route 9 was Poilane’s private thoroughfare. His motorcar was the first vehicle in the
Not only did Poilane establish the first plantation, he fulfilled his
avocation of botanist with aplomb, traveling throughout Indochina, even to
the borders of China and Burma, in behalf of the Forestry Service. Poilane collected
specimens that he sent to the museum at Saigon. Until 1947 his submissions numbered between
fifteen hundred and five thousand a year, for a total of more than thirty-six
thousand, and he was credited with having discovered twenty-one species of
plants and producing the second known specimens of nineteen others. The [genera] Poilania [in the Asteraceae] and Poilaniella [in the Euphorbiaceae]
will forever give homage to this venturesome man. Poilane began an
experimental orchard, attempting to introduce numerous types of fruit trees
native to tropical and even temperate climates. He imported grafts from France, Japan, and
As the trees grew, so did the Poilane family.
Madame Bordeauducq, Eugène’s
formidable first wife, who bore him five children, kept her maiden name to
show her independence. Indeed, when Poilane divorced her, Bordeauducq
merely moved a kilometer down the road and started a plantation of her
then married a Nung woman and sired five more
… Another planter [in the Khe Sanh area] was M. Rome,
whose land lay east of the village along Route 9. His wife and gardener, both Japanese,
reportedly lived pretty high during the Japanese occupation of Indochina in
World War II. According to Madeleine Poilane, the wife of Poilane’s
son Felix, the three spied on French positions for the Japanese and Viet Minh
and were later killed, “some say by the VC [Viet Cong], others say by the
The Rome plantation then
went to a renter, M. Llinares, who lived in Tonkin
but had lost almost everything at the end of the Franco-Vietnamese war, when
he abandoned his property in what became North Vietnam. Llinares had no
love for the North Vietnamese, but his Vietnamese wife was said to have had
contacts with the Viet Cong, and a VC network was discovered in a village at
the edge of the Llinares plantation. After that, Bru
tribesmen inhabiting that village were resettled and any who had pro-VC
sympathies left. Nevertheless, two
workers were murdered in the Llinares house, after
which the wife left Khe Sanh
to demand protection from the Quang Tri province
chief. She never returned.
Llinares has been quoted as telling visitors to the village
that he wanted only one thing of God:
“I ask to die at Khe Sanh.” On April 30, 1964, Llinares
was a passenger in Eugène Poilane’s
well-known yellow Citroen when the two were ambushed by the Viet Cong. Llinares
survived, but Poilane died.
There are many animals
& plants named in Eugène Poilane’s
honor, including the plant genera Poilania Gagnep. (Asteraceae; now considered to be in the genus Epaltes Cass.) and Poilaniella
Petit & Tchang – a freshwater tropical carp of
Gecinulus grantia ssp. poilanei
Deignan – “Pale-headed Woodpecker” native to
Limnonectes poilani Bourret – a
frog found in eastern Cambodia & southern Vietnam
Pareuchiloglanis poilanei Pellegrin – a
Leptoseps poilani Bourret – a skink
Pseudocalotes poilani Bourret – Laotian False Bloodsucker
Aeschynanthus poilanei Pellegr. – Gesneriaceae, found on tree trunks in forests 900-100 m.
Pellegr. – Gesneriaceae,
now considered to be a synonym of Boea philippensis
C. B. Clark, found on shady & damp rocks in forests at 100-800 m.
elevation in Philippines & Vietnam
Primulina poilanei (Pellegr.)
Mich. Moller & A. Weber (synonym = Chirita poilanei Pellegr.)
Deinostigma poilanei (Pellegr.) W.
T. Wang & Z.Y. Li (synonym = Hemiboea poilanei Pellegr.) – Gesneriaceae
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014.2, Deinostigma poilanei “is only known from two collections from Nha-trand and Tourane, Vietnam, made in the 1920’s. Field surveys are required to relocate this
species and to gather more information on its status.”
Lilium poilanei Gagnep. (Liliaceae) endemic to nw
Vietnam & nw Laos PHOTO described in 1934 by Francois Gagnepain. (Bulletin de la Société
Botanique de France 81(7–8): 619. 1934.) Holotype collected by Poilane
(#12811). Tonkin: near Chapa, Km 8 to
Lo-qui-ho hill. Syntype: Poilane
#16929: Laos: between Muong-het
and Hung-send. Both of these may be in
P, Museum National d’Histoire
Naturelle in Paris.
Dendrocalamus poilanei (Poaceae) named by Aimee
Antoinette Camus in 1925 (Bulletin du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle 31: 205.
1925.) Holotype collected by Poilane (#8463) Annam:
Cana, pr. Phanrang and is held by P, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.
Amentotaxus poilanei (Ferre & Rouane) D.K. Ferguson Adansonia
ser. 4, 11 (3): 316. 1989.
(Cephalotaxaceae) Type: Vietnam, Kon Tum
Prov., Ngoc Pan Massif, Mt. Ngoc Linh. Collected by E. Poilane
#32686 (Holotype at P). According to Aljos Farjon (2010 ) A handbook
of the world’s conifers, Vol. II.
Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. Pp. 174-175. “Poilane’s
catkin yew” “De tung Nam,” “Sam bong Nam” in
“This species is apparently
a large tree occurring in high montane close evergreen rainforest, at an
altitude around 2300 m a.s.l. It is locally common but scattered, mixed
with broad-leaved (angiosperm) trees and perhaps Nageia wallichiana as the only other
conifer present. Rainfall is very high, at least over 3000 mm per annum and cool
temperatures prevail due to almost continuous cloud cover. This species is still only known with
certainty from a single mountain, where it was discovered in 1946 [by Poilane]. Reports
from other localities need confirmation by taxonomists who know the gens Amentotaxus
well. The primary forest in this
locality is still present and the total population probably consists of fewer
than 1000 mature trees. The status of A. poilanei
was assessed under the IUCN Red List criteria of 1994 as Vulnerable, assuming
a modest decline due to forest fragmentation at lower altitudes, approaching
or encroaching on the population. More
recent visits have indicated that there are no direct threats at present and
that the species should be classified as Vulnerable on the basis of its small
population size along, using the revised 2001 criteria. There are protected forest areas on the
mountain which include this species.”
A notice of Poilane’s death was printed in the Bulletin de al Societe de biologie du Viet Nam 2(1): 3-8.
1964. This article includes a
candid photo of Poilane.