Leonardo L. Co

Leonardo L. Co - photo by Leonard Co / Bonifacio Pasion

Leonardo L. Co is a prominent Filipino plant taxonomist and ethnobiologist. Born on December 29, 1953, Co served as a museum researcher at the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (IB) and as senior botanist of Conservation International-Philippines.

Together with co-workers Sofronio G. Cortez and Julio 'Julius' Borromeo, Co died on November 15, 2010 after being caught in an alleged crossfire between the Philippine Army and an armed group in Kananga, Leyte. Doubts, however, are cast on whether there was really a crossfire as claimed by Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan of the 19th infantry Battalion. Later fact-finding mission found no evidence of such crossfire.[1] Co's death was "equated to the loss of a national treasure."[2]

Co was President of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society. His book, “Common Medicinal Plants in the Cordillera Region: A Trainor’s Manual for Community-Based Health Programs,” was published in 1989. New plant species like the 'meat' flower Rafflesia leonardi (named after him) were discovered by Co. An exceptionally rare species from Nueva Ecija and known from only one specimen, Mycaranthes leonardoi is an orchid also named after Co.[3]

According to his colleague, Dr Julie Barcelona, Co "spent most of his botanical career studying the forests of Luzon’s Sierra Madre. Leonard’s enthusiasm has motivated many students in the Philippines to pursue a career in Botany. His attitude towards the sincere pursuit and sharing of his knowledge in Plant Taxonomy has put real meaning to the words biodiversity conservation, scientist, endemic, endangered, capacity-building, participatory, community." [4]

"Mycaranthes leonardoi" - an orchid named after Leonardo Co. Photo by Ulysses Ferreras


Leonardo Co published 13 peer-reviewed articles and six books.[5]

Co's CV also lists his publications.


a documentary about Leonardo Co
  • Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society
  • UP Botanical Society
  • UP Mountaineers - 1978
  • Community Health, Education, Services and Training in Cordillera Region (Chestcore)
  • Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral sa Pilipino (SAMAPIL) - 1973[6]

Awards and Recognitions

  • Biodiversity Heritage Award from UNDP
  • "Immortal Life of Leonard Co" - a film in the making to be launched at the First International symposium of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society with the theme "Philippine Botanical Treasures and the Legacy of Leonard Co"

Personal Life

Co proudly told people that he's "double G.I." (genuine Ilocano and genuine Intsik (Chinese))[7]. He spoke Filipino (Tagalog), English, Mandarin, and Latin. Co attended the Philippine Chinese High School, where a world-renowned moss taxonomist, Benito Tan, took Co with him in his weekly mountain treks. Tan also gave Co his book "Flora of Manila."[8]

Co is survived by his wife Glenda and daughter Linnea Marie. His parents are Co Lian Seng and Emelina Legaspi Co. At 22, his father migrated to the Philippines, married his Ilocana mother and had six children. Leonardo Co was their eldest and only son.[9]

Recovered from the memory card of his camera with the date stamp "11/09/2010," this could be the last photo of Co in Leyte before the "encounter"[10]


  • playing the harmonica (favorite repertoire: Chinese classical music)
  • collection of protest and national liberation songs (from various countries)
  • cooking


News Relating to Co's Death



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