April 2010
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Johann Franz Drège

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 [...]

The superb Ixia

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 [...]

Douglas Melin

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 [...]

The Kegelstatt Trio

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 [...]

“Risked my life getting this!”

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

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 [...]


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 [...]

Exploding parasites

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 [...]

Disa from Venngarn and Cape

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 [...]

On Ericas

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 [...]