International Carnivorous Plant Society

John Muirhead Macfarlane

John Muirhead Macfarlane (1855 – 1943)

John Muirhead Macfarlane was born in Kirkcaldy in Fife on 28 September 1855. He was educated locally, then studied sciences at the University of Edinburgh, first graduating with a BSc, followed by a degree of Doctor of Science in 1883.

Macfarlane occupied several different academic positions at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Dick Veterinary College. In 1885 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In 1893 Macfarlane travelled to the United States to assume a professorial chair at the University of Pennsylvania. He held this position until retirement in 1920. During his time at the University of Pennsylvania he encouraged botanists such as Edith May Farr. He played a leading role in organising and diversifying the botanical garden of the University of Pennsylvania.

On retirement Macfarlane returned to Britain and died in Lancaster in northern England on 16 September 1943.

MacFarlane wrote "Nepenthaceae", a monograph on the tropical pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes. It was published in 1908 in Adolf Engler's Das Pflanzenreich and was the most exhaustive revision of the genus up to that point, covering all known species, and included detailed accounts of the structure, anatomy, and development of Nepenthes. At the time of its publication, "Nepenthaceae" was praised for its many high quality illustrations (95 images in 19 figures) of both morphological and anatomical features.

After the publication of his monograph, Macfarlane went on describe a number of new Nepenthes species including N. merriliana and N. truncata. Nepenthes macfarlanei is named in his honour.


Carnivorous Plant Newsletter article with a discussion of Macfarlane's work:

Mellichamp, T.L. 1979. Botanist's Corner: Botanical History of CP V: John M. Macfarlane. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 8(4):121-122.

John Brittnacher. 2011. Drosera x hybrida rest in peace. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 40(4):112-121.


For more information on the life of John Muirhead Macfarlane please see Wikipedia.

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Macfarlane N ampullaria

Nepenthes ampullaria figure in Nepenthaceae by John Muirhead Macfarlane.




John Muirhead Macfarlane

John Muirhead Macfarlane.

Nepenthes macfarlanei

Ground pitcher of Nepenthes macfarlanei embedded in Sphagnum. From Rudolf Schmid-Hollinger. 1997. Nepenthes macfarlanei: Prey found in ground pitchers. Carniv. Pl. Newslett. 26(2):46-50.

Macfarlane Pflazenreich

 Monograph on Nepenthaceae by John Muirhead Macfarlane.