December 2019
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Johann Franz Drège

Gladiolus orchidiflorus

Gladiolus orchidiflorus

The third great early 19C collector of South African plants were Johann Franz Drège (1794-1881). He is said to have collected some 9500 plants (with duplicates some 200 000 specimens!, representing c 8000 species). Many of these came to Ernst Meyer, professor of botany at Köningsberg, who wrote the number “2631″ on the label attached to this specimen (so far known, we don’t have any labels with Drège’s own handwriting). This number (Gladiolus 2631) is the basis for the clean written label stating the collecting locality with reference to Meyer’s Zwei pflanzengeographisceh Document von J. F. Drège, page 68.

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The superb Ixia

Ixia superba

Ixia superba

From last weeks press release: Type specimen for Ixia superba. It is an as rare as beautiful relative to the crocuses, only known from a restricted area of a few acres in South Africa. It was described as a new species only less than ten years ago. The Swedish Museum of Natural History has one of the most valuable herbarium collection of South African plants in the world, including nearly 6000 type specimens. The earliest are from the 18th Century, when the Cape province was visited by Linnaeus’ disciples Carl Peter Thunberg and Anders Sparrman.

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Douglas Melin

Paullinia sp.

Paullinia sp.

Douglas Melin (1895-1946) was only 17 years old when he jumped 3.02 in Men’s Standing Long Jump at the Stockholm Summer Olympics in 1912. This only gave him a shared 14th place (the winner, Konstantinos Tsiklitiras from Greece, jumped 3.37; Tsiklitiras died the year after in the Balkan Wars). His later career was not as athlete, but as entomologist (at Uppsala University), “anti-natural-selectionist” and, briefly, explorer. As explorer he travelled to the Amazonian region in a small but very ambitious expedition (“Swedish Amazonas Expedition”) from 1923 to 1925, together with a few friends. This expedition resulted in one dead friend, two books, a few overlooked papers, and, of course, collections of insects and plants (and other naturalia?). Here at the Herbarium we have more than 60 plants collected by Melin during his expedition, of which many (but not this one) are types for new taxa. Until today not much more is known about Douglas Melin. (Many thanks to Lennart Olsson, Jena, who provided me with some valuable information on Douglas Melin!)

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The Kegelstatt Trio

Passiflora bicornis

Passiflora bicornis

Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio (K. 498) was dedicated to his then 17 year old piano student Franziska Jacquin (1769-1850; by Mozart sometimes called “Signora Dini mini niri”). The arrangement for clarinet, viola and piano was an “invention” by Mozart, and when the Kegelstatt Trio was played for the first time, in the home of Baron Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin (father of Franziska; 1727-1817), the clarinet was played by Anton Stadler, the violin by Mozart himself, and the piano part by Franziska. Baron Jaquin was himself a close friend of Mozart; as professor of Botany at the University of Vienna and director of the botanical garden at Schönbrunn also acquainted with Emperor Joseph II and the Vienna aristocracy, the very same circles frequented by Mozart. Baron Jacquin himself played flute with Mozart on some of the many house concerts arranged at Jacquin’s home. Baron Jaquin’s youngest son Gottfried (1767-1792, nicknamed “Hikkiti Horky” by Mozart) was one of Mozart’s closest friends, and made some attempts in composing himself. The plant shown here has a note written by Baron Jacquin, written when he sent it to his Swedish friend, colleague and correspondent Carl Linnaeus (see http://www.linnaeus.c18.net/). Maybe it was collected when Jacquin went to the Antilles and South America in the late 1750’s for collecting plants to Schönbrunn, or perhaps from some of the plants cultivated there after his travel. Linnaeus later donated the specimen to one of his disciples, Andreas (or Anders) Dahl (1751-1789), who worked for another of Linnaeus’ discipes, Claes Alströmer (1736-1794; son to Jonas Alströmer, a pioneer of agriculture and industry in Sweden). In 1848, the Alströmer herbarium (some 4500 specimens) was donated to the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

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“Risked my life getting this!”

Miconia leptantha

Miconia leptantha

“Risked my life getting this!” wrote the then 43 year old Erik Leonard Ekman (1883-1931) in 1927 when collecting in Haiti (“very steep mountainslope”). Less than four years later he died from influenza, weakend by pneumonia, malaria and black water fever, still on the island of Hispaniola.

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Golden fronds

Pityrogramma ebenea

Pityrogramma ebenea

Sometimes the beauty comes unexpected, as in the waxes on the abaxial (lower) surface of these fern fronds. Not unexpectedly, thought, is that some species of the genus Pityrogramma are cultivated ornamentals, or used for body decorations (the contrast between the dark upper surface of the frond and its gold or silver coloured lower surface is especially striking). One of these cultivated species, P. calomelanos, is now also a pantropical weed, including in oil-palm plantations in tropical west-Africa.

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Loves-lies-bleeding

Amaranthus alopecurus

Amaranthus alopecurus

Loves-lies-bleeding, foxtail amranth or kiwicha, the widely cultivated species Amaranthus caudatus have many names. It is not only a well-looking garden plant (can be grown from seeds), but also quite edible and used in many traditional South American dishes. Together with some closely related species it was one of the sacred plants of the Aztecs. The seeds are rich in highly valuable proteins (and high in lysine). The bright red colour stem from betacyanins.

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Exploding parasites

Arceuthobium bicarinatum

Arceuthobium bicarinatum

What’s interesting is not the branch, but rather all the small fragments around. They are plants of the parasitic genus Arceuthobium, small dwarf mistletoes specialised on gymnosperms. The genus’ 40 species can be found on most continents, including Europe, but the genus is most diverse in North America. Their fruits are well adopted to life in a forest; lacking a disperser they instead explode and shoot the sticky seed away, with a speed of up to 80 km/h! This specimen was collected by Baron Türckheim (1853-1920), a German coffee farmer in Guatemala. 57 years old he made a botanical exploration of the mountains of Santo Domingo (Hispaniola), where he collected this one.

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Disa from Venngarn and Cape

Disa spathulata

Disa spathulata

Neither by foot, by horse, in a wagon, or a boat; neither dressed nor undressed; neither within a year nor within a month; neither daytime nor nighttime, should Disa, daughter of Sigsten of Venngarn, visit king Freyr of Sweden. And so did Disa do, and thus saving all the elderly, sick and handicapped in the kingdom! She is commemorated by P.J. Bergius (1730-1790) in this specious African orchid genus, Disa. There are more than 160 species of Disa, most of them in the Cape of South Africa, and some are ornamentals (including some hybrids).

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On Ericas

Erica vallis-aranearum

Erica vallis-aranearum

One of the dominant genera of the unique South African fynbos vegetation is Erica, with some 635 species endemic to the Southwest Cape (of a total of about 860 spp including 16 spp in Europe, and 1 sp in Sweden). Many of the fynbos spp have seeds with germination enhanced by smoke, an adaptation to frequent bush fires. A few species are lime-tolerant, the majority being calcifugous (i.e., not tolerant to alkaline, basic, soli; calcifugous is sometimes called ericaceous; think of the acidic heaths dominated by Erica and other Ericaceae). The name Erica is supposed to be derived from vereika, an old indoeuropean word for heath. This specimen is collected by E.G.H. Oliver (1938-), who has named and described almost 300 Ericas.

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