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The Tragic Death of Redowsky

Carex chamissonis

At the age of 31, Ivan Ivanovitch Redowsky (1774-1807) set out on J.M.F. Adams’ (1780-1838) expedition to the River Lena in Siberia. There, in the Wild East, a scientist must have been a rare sight. Early the year 1807, when he was traveling along the northern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, close [...]

The Tragic Death of Herbert Huntingdon Smith

Aphelandra pulcherrima

Collecting naturalia can even in modern times be dangerous, especially if you are deaf as Herbert H. Smith (1851-1919) was. Collecting snails along the railway in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that tragic day in March 19192, he was hit by the train and killed. In 1880 he had married Amelia Woolwirth, who also was a [...]

Kaempferia in an urn

Kaempferia rotunda

What a beauty! Folded up the sheet will reveal an urn, with the plant, a species of Kaempferia of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), mounted as it was growing out of the urn. The genus is named after German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), the first western botanist to thoroughly describe the Japanese flora, naming [...]

Poisonous, thorny and delicious

Carissa macrocarpa

Poisonous and thorny, but delicious. That is, the fruits of the members of genus Carissa are delicious and edible, rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Especially Natal plum (C. macrocarpa; Swedish: natalplommon, South Africa: num-num, Zulu: Amatungulu) has large fruits, sold at markets and sometimes made into jelly. It is not [...]

Acanthus ornaments

Acanthus mollis

I don’t know what is true, but some say that the acanthus ornament, the basis for the decoration on capitals of the Corinthian order, is based on Acanthus spinosus, other say that it is based on the plant shown here, Acanthus mollis. It is one of the oldest cultivated garden plants, dating back [...]

Aliens

Alternanthera philoxeroides

Water hyacinth is a well known aquatic weed; less well known but almost as bad is alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides of family Amaranthaceae). It originated from South America, but was introduced to North America as an ornamental (and as crayfish fodder), and is now considered an invasive species not only there but also [...]

A drawing

Hesperantha cucullata

Not everything in our collections are plants. Among other things, we also have some drawings. This is one of them, obviously of a specimen now in Berlin, made by Friedrich Wilhelm Klatt (1825-1897) of a Hesperantha cucullata, one of more than 80 species from this subsaharan genus (family Iridaceae; some Hesperantha are cultivated). [...]

Ferns

Davallia repens

Today we started to sort our 1200 or so type specimens of ferns as a prepartation for scanning them. A few, like this Davallia, have already been scanned, but most are not. It will be fun; ferns generally makes very nice and tidy collections, thought many are mounted on sheets somewhat larger than [...]

Hungary or Romania? Or both?

Adonis transsilvanica

Beautiful but poisonous. Like many other members of family Ranunculaceae (the butttercup family), plants of genus Adonis are rich in cardiac glycosides (and thus of medical interest). The label of this specimen, collected by the hungarian botanist Aladár Richter (1868-1927) in 1910, say that it is collected in the town Kolozsvár in the [...]

In an urn

Metalasia pulchella

Perhaps the most successful of all plant groups, the nearly 25000 members of family Asteraceae (or Compositae) can be found all over the world (except Antarctica). This is a South African species of genus Metalasia, first described as a Gnaphalium and apparantly known for quite some time (the use of urns on the [...]