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11th International Botanical Congress


US #1376-79 were issued the day before the congress opened.

On August 23, 1969, the US Post Office issued a set of four stamps for the 11th International Botanical Congress (IBC).

They were the first US stamps that honored flora from each of the four corners of the United States.  They were also the first to include Latin names.

Prior to the creation of the IBC, local botanical groups held meetings in their own areas to discuss the natural sciences.  Over time, these groups grew large and many called for a large international organization.

US #1376-79 – Classic First Day Cover.

The first meeting of the IBC was held in 1864, in Brussels, Belgium.  The meeting’s time and place were selected to coincide with an international horticultural exhibit there.  The conference was held annually for several years.  At many of these meetings, several members requested that they standardize botanical nomenclature (scientific naming of the plants).  While there was some discussion on the topic, the official rules weren’t set for several years.

US #1376-79 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Although the congresses date back to 1864, the formal numbering system still in use today wasn’t implemented until 1900.  So the 1900 Congress is generally referred to as the First International Botanical Congress.  Since then, the meetings have generally been held about every five or six years.  During these early congresses, they adopted French as the official language of their meetings, then changed it to English in 1935, and established that Latin would be used for plant descriptions. 

US #1376-79 – Set of four Fleetwood First Day Covers.

Up until 1926, all of the meetings had been held in Europe.  The first one outside of Europe was held that year in Ithaca, New York.  The IBC returned to the US in 1969 for the 11th Congress in Seattle, Washington.  At that meeting, they established the International Association of Bryologists (bryology is the study of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts).  For the next several decades the meetings rotated between Europe, North America, and Australia.  The first meeting in Asia occurred in 1993 in Japan.

The most recent meeting was held in 2017 in China.  You can learn about it here

About the stamps…

The flora pictured on the IBC stamps are the ocotillo from the Southwest, the Douglas fir native to the Northwest, the Northeast’s lady’s slipper, and the Southeastern franklinia.

US #1376 – Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Named after Scottish botanist David Douglas, the douglas fir is not a true fir.  It grows along the West coast from British Columbia to central California.  The douglas fir can be found from the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains to the Pacific shoreline.  It can survive at elevations from sea level to 5,900 feet.  This tree is the second-tallest conifer in the world and can grow to 250 feet or more.  This species lives more than 500 years and has been known to survive over 1,000 years.

US #1377 – Lady slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Another stamp in the block pictures the lady’s slipper.  A member of the orchid family, this perennial flower grows from six to fifteen inches tall.  It can live for over twenty years.  In the past, its roots were used to treat nervousness, toothaches, and muscle spasms.  The lady’s slipper must grow near a certain fungus found in the soil.  Because the flower’s seeds don’t have an ample supply of nutrients, they rely on threads from the fungus for nourishment.  When the lady’s slipper has matured enough to produce its own food supply, the fungus then shares some of those nutrients.

US #1378 – Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

The ocotillo is also called candlewood, desert coral, or vine cactus.  It grows in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of Southwestern US and Northern Mexico.  The ocotillo can grow to 33 feet tall.  In drier weather, the plant appears dead, but when it rains small leaves and bright crimson flowers appear.  Hummingbirds and carpenter bees pollinate the flowers.

US #1379 – Franklinia (Franklinia alatamaha)

The fourth stamp pictures the franklinia.  Named for Benjamin Franklin, this tree was discovered by botanists John and William Bartram, who are honored on US #3314.  The plant was only found in a three-acre spot along Georgia’s Altamaha River. It became extinct in the wild in the early 1800s.  The cultivated specimens in existence today are all descended from seeds collected by the Bartrams.

Several nations have issued stamps when they hosted the IBC.  See a couple below:

Great Britain #414-17 were issued for the 10th Congress in Great Britain in 1964.
Berlin #9N541 was issued for the 14th IBC in Berlin.

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9 responses to "11th International Botanical Congress"

9 thoughts on “11th International Botanical Congress”

  1. Thanks Mystic. Appreciated reading about all in the article but especially lady’s slipper. Some grow on my land and knowing how fragile they can be I am careful to protect them. I look forward to their appearance every Spring.

  2. All four ‘flora’ are special in their own way & likely unknown to many. Thank you Mystic for giving us a moment or two of amazing information.

  3. The ocatillo of the SW is a beautiful plant. Looks dead for most of the year and then when spring comes develops soft short furry green leaves and beautiful shock of red on top. Cannot believe this is the same dried stick one has seen the rest of the year. We just planted one in our yard here in AZ.


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