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Floyd Alonzo McClure, USA

1897-1970

Floyd Alonzo McClure was one of the world’s leading authorities on the bamboo plant. Born in Shelby County, Ohio, McClure went to China as a teacher in 1919 after completing his undergraduate work at Ohio State University. He stayed in China for 24 years, working most of the time as professor of economic botany at Lingnan University in Canton. When the Japanese invaded China, McClure returned to the United States and became a consultant on bamboo for the United States Department of Agriculture. In the 1940s, he was appointed honorary research associate for the National Museum of Natural History, a position he held until his death in 1970.

Floyd McClure was instrumental in the introduction of Tonkin bamboo to the world. During his tenure as an instructor and professor at Lingnan University in Guangdong, China from 1919-1941, he assigned the scientific name of Arundinaria amabilis. Upon a visit to China in 1925, McClure was the first to scientifically describe the plant and recognized that it was a distinct and previously unreported species. At the time, this bamboo had already been in use for building fly rods and was known by a variety of different common names. The name was amended to Arundinaria amabilis McClure in the doctor’s honor and translated, means ‘The Lovely Bamboo.’

He is best known in the United States for his book, Bamboos: A Fresh Perspective, by Harvard University in 1966. McClure was a contributor to the USDA Agriculture Handbook on bamboos in 1961. The Bamboos is the classic treatise on bamboo in U.S. literature, with sections on the vegetative phase, the reproductive phase, elite bamboo species, and propagation methods, as well as interesting historical notes, photos, and illustrations.

Frederick G. Meyer, a colleague of McClure’s at the USDA, wrote this tribute : “The many friends of Floyd Alonzo McClure were saddened by his death of April 15, 1970, short a few months of his seventy-third birthday. Those who knew him personally lost a true friend, and the world lost a teacher and pre-eminent authority on bamboos, the tree grasses. A former Chinese student likened McClure’s life to the villager, who, after gazing for years at the Great Stone Face on the mountain, became himself the person with wisdom, strength, honesty and solidarity like that of the mountain, the person the whole village had been searching for. Bamboo was McClure’s Great Stone Face, and teacher of truth in the green plant world. ……..In fact, he died in his garden, digging a bamboo plant for a young friend.