June 2024
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Finally at travels end


Aberia trists S-G-2Last week a two years journey finally reached its end. It started springtime 2006, with Aberia tristis (i.e., Dovyalis zeyheri, Flacourtiaceae), the first of the then estimated 4900 type specimens that was to be included in our part of the African Plants Initiative. It ended last Thursday, when I scanned the 7881:st specimen, a Zygophyllum uitenhagense (i.e., Roepera maritima, Zygophyllaceae). Both specimens were collected by Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795-1868) and Carl Ludwig Philipp Zeyher (1799-1858) in the Cape province of South Africa, probably in the 1820’s. Ecklon, a poor Danish pharmacist, and Zeyher, a German plant collector, are among the most prolific collectors of South African plants, and we have a very rich collection of their specimens here at the Swedish Museum of Natural History (more than 1500 of the 7900 scanned specimens were collected by them). Zygophyllum uitenhagense S-G-9820It is their collections together with the collections of the contemporary Johann Franz Drège (1794-1881) and the later Rudolf Schlechter (1872-1925), that make up the bulk of our South African type specimens, and indeed the majority of our African types. In my virtual travel through Africa, I have met many more collectors, spanning three centuries from Peter Forsskål (1732-1763) to contemporary botanists like Marie Källersjö and PO Karis, and I have visited almost every contry on the continent (and many, many of the old colonies). I will miss some of these old men (and a few women)! Apart from learning a lot of old African colony geography, I have been quite good in reading old German hand writings. Now I must admit that I’m not sure how often I will need that particular knowledge…

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