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Celebrated tropical botanist delivers last Centenary lecture

By Prof Braam van Wyk and Estelle Walmsley

Posted on 21 November 2008

Prof Francis Hallé
Prof Francis Hallé

Renowned French botanist and Botany Professor Emeritus Francis Hallé of the University of Montpellier, France, delivered the last of the Centenary lectures at the University of Pretoria on 18 November 2008. He spoke on canopy exploration in tropical rainforests.

 Prof Hallé is a tropical botanist of international renown for his research on tree architecture and the biodiversity and ecology of tropical rainforests. He has studied tropical plant life in 45 countries for more than 40 years and is famous for being the man who pioneered the exploration of the rainforest canopy using specially-designed rafts that are suspended from hot-air balloons.

From 1986 to 2003, Prof Hallé was the team leader of several canopy raft expeditions to many parts of the world. A recipient of the prestigious Fairchild Award for tropical botany, Prof Hallé has published many scientific papers and several books.

Prof Hallé is also a skilled artist and his interest in tree architecture and plants resulted in pioneering work on the branching or architectural patterns of plants. His book, Tropical Trees and Forests, an Architectural Analysis (with Oldeman & Tomlinson) (Springer Verlag, 1978), deals with the various architectural types displayed by trees and is one of the most frequently-consulted sources in literature on tropical botany.

For many scientists and laypersons, however, Prof Hallé is perhaps best known for his fascinating and thought-provoking, semi-popular book, In Praise of Plants (Timber Press, 2002). This remarkable book, translated from the original French, presents a highly original appreciation of plants from Prof Hallé’s unique viewpoint – both scientific and emotional. It is a must-read book which is without equal amongst literature on plants.

Prof Hallé visited the University of Pretoria as a guest of the Centre for Environmental Studies and his visit had the support of the French Embassy, Pretoria.

To listen to or download Prof Hallé’s presentation, click here.


The tree canopies in which  Prof Hallé works

The special balloon that carries researchers over the rainforest

Researchers reach the treetops from their basket

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