Alwyn Howard Gentry

The Tropical Botanist

Today is the anniversary of the death of the American botanist Alwyn Howard Gentry.

The year was 1993 when Alwyn's life was tragically cut short when his plane crashed in fog into a forested mountain during a treetop survey in Ecuador.

At the time, Alwyn was just 48 years old and at the peak of his career.

Alwyn was regarded as a towering figure in tropical biology and ranked among the world's leading field biologists. He also was the senior curator at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Theodore Parker III was also on the plane with Alwyn. Parker was a world-expert ornithologist.

Parker's fiance survived the crash, and she told a reporter that Alwyn and Parker had also survived the crash. But sadly, they were both trapped in the plane's wreckage along with the pilot. Without immediate medical attention, they passed away the following morning.

The only consolation for the many who knew and loved them was that Alwyn and Parker died doing what they loved.

Throughout his professional life, Alwyn had been in awe of the powerful pull of the rainforest, writing:

"The Amazon is a world of lush green vegetation, and abundant waters has inspired naturalists, fortune hunters, dreamers, explorers, and exploiters."


According to Conservation International, Alwyn had collected more specimens than any other living botanist of his time - a staggering 70,000 plants.

Botanists today rely on Gentry's Guide to the Woody Plants of Peru for understanding and direction regarding neotropical and tropical plants. 

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Alwyn Howard Gentry
Alwyn Howard Gentry


  1. Bil Alverson (who was a grad student of Al Gentry's at Missouri Botanical Garden) on June 17, 2022 at 10:44 am

    Ah…if this was posted on August 3, 2020, I think you meant to say “27 years.” Gentry, Parker, and the pilot died in the crash in 1993.

  2. The Daily Gardener on October 4, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Bill! I did mispeak! I was looking at the year of his birth (1945) not death! Good catch. I love that you did the math from the date of the post as well! 😊

Leave a Comment