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1927 Map of the Arboretum

1924 - 1927: Expedition to Northwestern China and Northeastern Tibet

Joseph Rock photographed the interior of a medicine shop in Zhongba (Chung-pa), Sichuan with baskets of dried medicinal plants in baskets on the floor in March 1925. Archives of the Arnold Arboretum.
Joseph Rock photographed the interior of a medicine shop in Zhongba (Chungba), Sichuan with baskets of dried medicinal plants in baskets on the floor in March 1925.

Plants collected on this Expedition

Plant ID Accession Date Recieved As Origin Source

Expedition Stats

China

Event Type
Expedition
Collection Type
Germplasm, Herbarium Specimens
Arnold Arboretum Participants
Joseph F. Rock
One of Joseph Rock's Naxi assistants stands beside the trunk of a dragon spruce (Picea asperata) in Dachso Canyon, Tibet in June 1926.
One of Joseph Rock’s Naxi assistants stands beside the trunk of a dragon spruce (Picea asperata) in Dachso Canyon, Tibet in June 1926.
“Trunk of Picea specimen no. 14,063, near our camp in Dachso Canyon north of Radja. The tree whose trunk is here pictured can be seen in the other negatives showing our camp in Dachso Canyon, with a huge Picea back of it. Elevation: 10,150 ft.” Archives of the Arnold Arboretum.

In 1924, Joseph Charles Francis Rock, an Austrian-born botanist, anthropologist, explorer, linguist, and author, departed on a three-year plant collecting expedition to one of the most floristically rich areas on earth. His expedition would be the first of many Arnold Arboretum expeditions to this region of spectacular botanical diversity.

The area he explored, the Hengduan Mountain region of western Sichuan and eastern Tibet (Xizang), is considered by international conservation organizations to be a hotspot of biodiversity. This term is used to designate areas with a high number of endemic species that are under severe threat of destruction due to human activities.

Charles Sprague Sargent, founding director of the Arboretum, initiated Rock‘s trip to China in 1924. The three-year expedition resulted in the collection of more than 20,000 herbarium specimens Herbarium specimen: An herbarium specimen is a pressed and dried plant sample that is generally mounted on a sheet of paper. Specimens can be stored indefinitely and are used for a wide variety of botanical research. , over 1,000 bird specimens, several hundred packets of seeds, 653 photographs, and a correspondence between Rock and Sargent that exceeded 300 letters and telegrams. It was curtailed on Sargent’s death in 1927 as a cost cutting measure by then assistant director Ernest Henry Wilson.

Dig Deeper

The archives of the Harvard University Herbaria hold the Botanical papers of Joseph Francis Charles Rock, 1925-1927.

In 1956, Rock wrote about The Amnye Ma-chhen range and adjacent regions : a monographic study.

After his plant collecting career with the Arboretum, Rock lived in Yunnan. During that time he collected materials for his book, A Na-khi-English encyclopedic dictionary.

Nine of Rock’s illustrated travelogues were published in the National Geographic Magazine between 1922 and 1935.

Adapted from original material by Sheila Connor.