18th CENTURY:IMPORTANT PEOPLE, DATES AND PUBLICATIONS
IN THE HISTORY OFPELARGONIUM
Pelargonium peltatumcomes to Europe
By Wayne Handlos, Ph.D.
This is an abbreviated history of some of people who have been influential in the
introduction, naming and distribution of various species ofPelargonium into Europe
from Southern Africa.
1. Caspar Commelin 2. Mary Somerset 3.Herman Boerhaave 4.Michelangelo Tilli 5.Philip Miller
6. John Martyn 7. Johann Dillenius 8. Augustin Walther 9.Johann Weinmann 10.Johannes Burman
1700 Adrian van der Stel (Stael) He was the governor of the Dutch settlement at Cape Town
in South Africa. He sent the first recorded seeds of P. peltatum to Europe where they
were grown in Amsterdam.
1701 Jan Moninckx In this year he produced the first painting of P. peltatum which can be
found in the Moninckx Atlas. He also figured P. fruticosum/myrrhifolium, P. acetosum,
P. auritum, P. lobatum, P. pinnatum, P. rapaceum, and P. zonale.
1703 Caspar Commelin His Praeludia Botanica contains the first published description and
illustration ofP. peltatum. He was a professor of botany at the Amsterdam Botanic Garden.
1703-05 Mary Somerset (Duchess of Beaufort) and Everhard Kick/Kik She began
serious collecting of exotic plants in the 1690s. These were grown in a 100 long
stove (heated building). She lived next door to Sir Hans Sloan and the Chelsea Physic
Garden and had access to many exotic plants. Kik was a painter employed by the Duchess
of Beaufort. During this time he illustratedP. peltatum and P. zonale in a two volume
work for her
1713 Antonio Tita He was an Italian working in Padua where his Catalogus Plantarum
Pataviilists 12 species of African geraniums.
1720 Herman Boerhaave He was a famous physician and botanist in Holland. From
1709-1730 he was prefect of Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, the oldest botanical garden in
the Netherlands. In addition to writings on medical subjects, he authoredIndex alter
Plantarum quae in Horto Academico Lugduno-Batavowhich lists 68 collections of
Geraniumof which the first 25 are African and therefore probably Pelargoniums.
1723 Achatz Wehmann Working in Leipzig, he compiled a list of plants (Hortus Caspar
Bosianus) grown in Caspar Boses botanical garden. The list has no page numbers and
plants are listed in alphabetical order. Fourteen types of African geraniums are listed and
includeP. peltatum and a white throated zonal geranium.
1723 Michaelangelo Tilli Working in Pisa, he grew P. fulgidum from seed and illustrated this
plant asG. surianense in his work Catalogus Plantarum Horti Pisani. The list includes
42 types of geranium of which 16 are African (and therefore probablyPelargoniums.)
1724 Philip Miller As curator at the Chelsea Physic Garden, he had access to many plants and
he included descriptions ofP. zonale, P. peltatum, P. acetosum, P triste and P. lobatum
in his Gardeners Dictionary. He produced an illustrated version and an abbreviated
version of his dictionary which ran through at least 20 editions and translations.
1728-1737 John Martyn He was an English botanist and professor of botany at
Cambridge where he wrote Historia Plantarum Rariorum.
1730 Robert Furber His Twelve Months of Flowers included 12 seasonal engravings featuring
over 400 species. The month of May included the embroidered cranesbill; June the
scarlet geranium; July the night scented geranium; September the sour lvd geranium;
October the best flowering geranium, black cranesbill and scarlet cranesbill; November
the embroidered cranesbill and great purple cranesbill; December the scarlet cranesbill
and stripd lvd cranesbill.
1732 Johann Dillenius He was a German botanist hired by the English apothecary James
Sherard to inventory the plants in his garden and greenhouse. In the Hortus Elthamensis
Dillen described and illustrated P. cucullatum, P. inquinans, P. papilionaceum, P. odoratum,
P. vitifolium, P. carnosum, P. fulgidum. He later became the first professor of botany
at Oxford. He was the first botanist to suggest the name Pelargonium though he did
not use that name.
1732 Augustin Walther In 1713 he received his medical doctorate from the University of
Leipzig, where he became a professor of anatomy, pathology and therapy. In 1730 he
became director of the Leipzig Botanical Gardens. He published his Plantarum exoticarum
in 1732 and it included 13 varieties of Pelargonium including P. acetosum, P. peltatum,
one variegated leaf type, one honey scented and another with a silver margined
1737 Carl Linnaeus While traveling in Holland he met George Clifford and used his
collections to produce Hortus Cliffortianus which included several species of Pelargonium
though he included them all in the genus Geranium (as had all previous writers).
At this time he still used phrase names for all species. Species numbered 6, 13-23 and 24
1738 Johann Weinmann He was a pharmacist, government official and botanist with a
botanic garden in Regensberg. His eight-volume Phytanthoza Iconographia (1737-
1745) had more than 1,000 large format engravings (many done by Georg Ehret). The
mezzotint and hand colored illustrations are still much sought-after. Volume 1 includes
11 plates (#s 535-545) of Geranium (which includes species of Pelargonium, Geranium
1738 Johannes Burman He was the first botanist to use the name Pelargonium in his Rariorum
Africanarum Plantarum. His work included illustrations and descriptions of six
species of Geranium and eight species of Pelargonium. Burmann introduced Linnaeus to
(Continued next month.)