A story about a Linnean specimen
Linnean herbarium (S-LINN)
Department of Phanerogamic Botany
The pictures show front and reverse of the herbarium sheet that Carolus Linnaeus used to describe the plant Hyoscyamus physalodes (Species Plantarum 1753).
On the reverse of the sheet, Linnaeus himself has written:
"Plantam e Russia misit L. B. Car. Bielke, facies et calyces omnino Physalidis, capsula operculo tecta oro Hyoscyami".This means that the specimen originated from Russia and was donated by the baronet Sten Carl Bielke. Furthermore that the plant has the general habit and a calyx like in the genus Physalis whereas the capsule provided with a lid more resembles that of Hyoscyamus. Bielke was, together with Linnaeus, one of the five founders of the Swedish Academy of Sciences (founded in 1739).
In a paper published in Fauna och Flora in 1978 [FoF 78(3): 129--133, in swedish],
Bertil Nordenstam gives the following account concerning Bielke's activities:
"For family reasons, this honourable baronet [Bielke] made a journey to Petersburg in 1744 together with his protégé Pehr Kalm, disciple of Linnaeus and later a famous explorer in North America. The botanicle circles of Petersburg, were dominated by one of Linnaeus'worst antagonists, J. E. Siegesbeck, who in 1737 had published a critique of Linnaeus' sexual system.
Linnaeus was of course hurt by the criticism, particularly as he earlier had maintained a friendly correspondence with Siegesbeck and even named a plant genus in his honour.In Petersburg, the baronet Bielke used all his diplomatic talents to win Siegesbeck's confidence and to obtain plants and seeds for Linnaeus. In exchange he could offer seeds from the well-reputed botanical garden in Uppsala.
Everything went well, until Siegesbeck received an envelope with Siegesbeckia-seeds, on which Linnaeus had written - Cuculus ingratus-, i. e. the ungrateful cuckoo. Siegesbeck was furious and Bielke's gathering of plants became very difficult. He tried to get Linnaeus to look for reconciliationbut in vain. Linnaeus stubbornly refused and put more wood on the fire by referring to Siegesbeck as an - ingratissimus cuculus.
At that point, Bielke had already acquired about 600 plants, e. g. the one Linnaeus named Hyoscyamus physalodes"
Latest update: 5 August 1999
Comments on this page: Arne Anderberg
Comments on the Swedish Museum of Natural History website