From the first days of plant cultivation there have been people who have helped develop new growing methods, introduced new varieties of plants for specific purposes and of course increased our knowledge and understanding of plants and their uses.
The early hunter gathers must have realised some plants were better than others for eating and revisited certain locations regularly and the ancient Egyptians developed highly organised plant production and irrigation systems to feed the growing population while the Romans mastered the art of grafting vines to satisfy the demand for drinking wine. More recently the Victorians built fantastic glasshouses and pioneered new methods for growing the new, exotic plants being introduced by the many plant hunters travelling the world in search of new plants.
The Gardening Times.com will have regularly features on past plants people and interviews with the plants men and women of today.
In this launch edition of The Gardening Times.com we take a look at a man who is considered the father of plant classification; someone who is certainly an historic figure who made such a difference to the naming and classification of living things within the natural world, and we still al his system today.
In Sternbrohult, Sweden the local pastor became a father on 23rd May 1707. His new born son was named Carolus [Carl] Linnaeus, a name that would become so entwined with science, and in particular the study of botany.
At the age of five Carl was familiar with his father’s garden and soon had his own patch to look after.
When in his early twenties, and with a keen interest in plants associated with medicine he started his studies at the University of Lund, followed with further study at the prestigious University of Uppsala
In the 1730’s he completed his medical degree while studying in the Netherlands followed with a period at the University of Leiden where he first published his work on the classification of living things, it’s title being ‘Systema Naturae’.
Linnaeus must have impressed the right people because in 1741 he was awarded a Professorship back at the University of Uppsala. While there he continued his studies in medicinal plants and experimented with growing exotic plants, in 1753 he published a new work called ‘Species Plantarum’ exploring the world of the plants used in horticulture
He was appointed physician to the Swedish royal family in 1758 which resulted in being given the title of Carl von Linne prior to his death in 1778.
Linnaeus has left a lasting legacy. He was the author of some of the greatest botanical works. It is this work that has created the global method by which all plants have been named, both historically and in the future. It is his binomial [two- name] system that we still use today in order to correctly name, and identify plants from around the world. The first part of a plant’s botanical name is the genus and the second word being the species, an example being Rosa [genus] canina [species]; the common name being the Dog Rose.
The reason for using Latin was that in Linnaeus’ day this was the universal language of the academic world. Today it is still accurate and relevant because Latin words have not changed. In the 18th century a combination of both Latin and Greek evolved to give what is now known as ‘Botanical Latin’. It is the fact that Latin is recognised around the world and the binomial system is still used to correctly name and identify plants from any global region that makes Carl Linnaeus such an important person.