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                                  Pelargonium peltatum comes 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 of Pelargonium into Europe

from Southern Africa.

1.Caspar Commelin 2.Mary Somerset 3.Herman Boerhaave 4.Michelangelo Tilli 5.Philip Miller

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

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 of P. 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 1690’s. 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 illustrated P. 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 …

Patavii lists 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 authored Index alter

Plantarum quae in Horto Academico Lugduno-Batavo which lists 68 collections of

Geranium of 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 Bose’s botanical garden. The list has no page numbers and

plants are listed in alphabetical order. Fourteen types of African geraniums are listed and

include P. peltatum and a white throated zonal geranium.

1723 – Michaelangelo Tilli – Working in Pisa, he grew P. fulgidum from seed and illustrated this

plant as G. surianense in his work Catalogus Plantarum Horti Pisani. The list includes

42 types of geranium of which 16 are African (and therefore probably Pelargoniums.)

1724 – Philip Miller – As curator at the Chelsea Physic Garden, he had access to many plants and

he included descriptions of P. zonale, P. peltatum, P. acetosum, P triste and P. lobatum

in his Gardener’s 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 lv’d geranium;

October the best flowering geranium, black cranesbill and scarlet cranesbill; November

the embroidered cranesbill and great purple cranesbill; December the scarlet cranesbill

and strip’d lv’d 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

are Pelargoniums.

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

and Erodium).

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.)



© 2013, Central Coast Geranium Society (CCGS )