Compiled by Colin Hughes, Bruce Maslin & Helen Fortune-Hopkins

Jacques Vassal (1933–)

Jacques Vassal. Near Donnybrook, southwest Western Australia, examining Acacia insolita, 1 August 1981, photo Bruce Maslin, and 2016 in France, photo courtesy of Jacques Vassal.

Jacques Vassal was a Professor at the Laboratoire d’Ecologie Terrestre, Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France for most of his professional life. Vassal studied mimosoid legumes and especially the genus Acacia s.l., and in 1972 he proposed the first major rearrangement of Bentham’s classification of Acacia s.l., dividing the genus into three subgenera, Acacia, Aculeiferum and Heterophyllum (= Phyllodineae). This work provided the starting point and conceptual framework for subsequent reclassification of the genus by Pedley and others. Between 1977 and 1991 Vassal made many visits to Sahelian Africa, especially to Mali and Senegal, to study the genus Acacia s.l. and carry out experiments to improve production of Gum Arabic (Senegalia senegal) as a means of enhancing livelihoods and stemming desertification. Another of Vassal’s achievements was as founder of the International Group for the Study of Mimosoideae, IGSM, established in 1973 with 30 members to promote research, communication and collaboration among mimosoid researchers. He was editor of the IGSM Bulletin, which was published annually for the next 19 years ( In terms of their collaborative spirit and approach, the IGSM and Vassal’s Bulletin were very much forerunners of the Bean Bag and the Legume Phylogeny Working Group. In his retirement, Jacques saved from destruction and archived various manuscripts, mainly letters from the 18th to 20th centuries, that documented relationships between both French and foreign naturalists with botanists from Toulouse. These are now housed in the local archives (

Philippe Guinet (1925–2019)

Philippe Guinet. Northcliffe, southwest Western Australia, 28 Sept. 1983, photo Bruce Maslin.

Philippe Guinet, French horticulturalist, botanist and palynologist worked for most of his career at the Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier, France. Guinet’s early work was wide ranging. He started out as a horticulturalist at the school of Horticulture in Versailles where he was head gardener in 1947-1948, and in 1949 was appointed as ingénieur horticole to develop a botanical garden at Béni-Abbès in Algeria. In the early 1950s he undertook several field collecting expeditions to the western Sahara, in southern Morocco and Algeria, where, alongside plants, he discovered rock carvings in the Monts d’Ougarta in Algeria in 1950. From 1950-1952 he was also involved in the development of the Botanical Garden in Strasbourg. His early botanical research spanned taxonomic work on grasses and seeds of Chenopodium, the latter while he was working as an assistant at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Later, for his PhD, he embarked on study of the extremely diverse pollen of mimosoid legumes, publishing a landmark study in 1969 [Guinet, P. (1969). Les Mimosacées, étude de palynologie fondamentale, corrélations, évolution. Travaux de la Section Scientifique et Technique Pondichéry 9, 1-293] which remains the key reference on the subject. This monumental work formed the basis for Guinet’s reviews of legume pollen in Advances in Legume Systematics Part 1 (1981) and Advances in Legume Biology (1986). The genus Guinetia L.Rico & M.Sousa (now a synonym of Calliandra) was named in his honour. Because pollen is so diverse and taxonomically useful in mimosoids, Guinet became heavily involved in their classification, including delimitation of a number of genera in collaboration with other specialists through the 1980s and 1990s.

Clockwise from top left: Philippe Guinet and Jacques Vassal at Box Hill, London during the third meeting of the International Group for the Study of Mimosoideae, IGSM, at Kew in 1978; Jacques Vassal and Pat Brenan, on an IGSM field trip to Brisbane Waters National Park, New South Wales, Australia, during the fourth IGSM meeting in August 1981; Philippe Guinet, Peter Poli and Bruce Maslin, near Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia, 1983. All photos courtesy of Bruce Maslin.

Besides both being based in southern France, these two mimosoid specialists, Jacques Vassal and Philippe Guinet, were contemporaries and worked together on Acacia, publishing several papers jointly [e.g., Guinet, P. and Vassal, J. (1978). Hypotheses on the differentiation of the major groups in the genus Acacia (Leguminosae). Kew Bulletin 32, 509-527]. They both visited Australia in the early 1980s to work on Acacia with Bruce Maslin, and each of them has a species of Acacia named by him in their honour: Vassal’s Wattle, Acacia vassalii Maslin and Guinet’s Wattle, A. guinetii Maslin, two narrow endemics from western Australia.