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A massive Quercus robur stands outside the village of...
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Plant Focus

Six oak cultivars originally described by Jef Van Meulder in 2014.

Michel Timacheff (Cannes, 1959 - Waterloo, 2018)

Michel Timacheff in Portugal, 2015 © Eike Jablonski

There are meetings that prove to be crucial, primordial encounters that mark our lives. My meeting with Michel Timacheff, an afternoon of October 1999 in Vallauris, was one of them.

He arrived with Antoine le Hardÿ de Beaulieu to join an Oak Open Day event devoted to the Mediterranean oaks. They had a specific objective: to find images for their Guide Illustré des Chênes (Illustrated Guide of Oaks). On the tour bus, Antoine sat by my side and told me about their project and, quite seduced by their idea, I offered to cooperate to the extent of my capabilities—by no means the commitment and investment that would become the work oak enthusiasts are familiar with and that has resulted in one of my proudest achievements: a collective, collegial success, in which Michel was the orchestral conductor.

Michel was a professional photographer and he was an artist. I always keep in mind his invaluable technical advice and follow it religiously. He arranged, with great taste and care for variety, all the photos of the Guide, where he is the main photographer. He had a special talent for photographing a plant and its details, which many of those not trained in botany lack. And he made tremendous progress in dendrology, mastering the specialized language to such an extent that in February, after he sent me a paragraph that completed the presentation of an Iberian oak, I told him that he was ready to write a botanical work of his own!

I still appreciate above all his black and white images, in "medium format", before the all-digital era that he 

Michel photographing Quercus urbanii in Puebla, Mexico, during the Pre-Tour of the 6th IOS Conference, 2009 © Charles Snyers

long resisted,which represented tortured roots, or the sublime dead or barely alive trees in the great pictures he gave us, at home, of the multi-millennial pines of the White Mountains. His book of black and white photos, “La sève du silence” (the sap of silence), reflected his technical mastery and artistic prowess.

Michel was also his bulletproof sense of humor, of the purest Belgian style, a country he had married when he married Nathalie and settled near Waterloo. He regularly sent jokes by e-mail, often quite blunt ones, between quotes from Les Tontons flingueurs or any other dialogue by Michel Audiard.

We also shared a love of upbeat music, performed by out-of-the-ordinary drummers, bassists, or guitarists, whether from progressive rock, heavy metal, or jazz rock—at the top of the list sat the legendary Frank Zappa.

What a pleasant traveling companion he was, smiling, sometimes worried when we traveled through Mexico, at nightfall, looking to repair a tire and sometimes even with the help of drug traffickers... I will miss this

At the 6th IOS Conference in Puebla, Mexico, 2009 (left to right): Thierry Lamant, Dan "Oakman" Kaiser, Michel, Antoine le Hardÿ de Beaulieu. Thierry, Michel, and Antoine hold the IOS Special Service Awards they recieved at the Conference for their book Guide Illustré des Chênes

complicity as he will be missed at the Association of French Botanical Parks and the IOS where he never hesitated to provide his beautiful images at the slightest request completely free of rights. He was always quick to respond to emails, even when received at all hours due to global time differences, from his multiple correspondents that were constantly growing in number.

He left us on a fatal Friday afternoon of March, after sending me an email that very morning. His career stopped suddenly in Waterloo—decidedly a morne pleine (dismal plain, as Victor Hugo wrote).

The immense emotional vacuum remains, but it will never surpass all Michel has brought us through his generosity, his professionalism, his friendship, his genial mood, his big smile.

Michel was all that, and more.


Translation: Roderick Cameron