IMPORTANT PEOPLE, DATES AND PUBLICATIONS
IN THE HISTORY OF PELARGONIUM [PART 2]
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. Part 1 was printed in the previous month’s newsletter and
covered the time period from 1620 to 1738.
1753 – Carl Linnaeus – The publication of Species Plantarum marked the introduction of the binomial
system of nomenclature (i.e. a genus and species name for each different plant) that we still use today.
While all the plants of the family were included in his group Monadelphia Decandria and placed in the
genus Geranium, he did distinguish between those with seven fertile stamens, those with five fertile stamens
and those with 10 fertile stamens. These groups would later be known as Pelargonium, Erodium and Geranium.
1759 – Nicolaas L. Burman – He was a Dutchman and the son of Johannes Burman whom he succeeded
as chair of botany in Amsterdam; he worked with Linnaeus in Upsala. His major work
concerning Pelargonium was Specimen botanicum de geraniis which included information
and descriptions of 72 species of geraniums.
1771 – Thomas Martyn – He was Professor of Botany at Cambridge from 1762 to 1825, though he
gave no lectures after 1796 because "the subject was not popular." His Catalogus Horti
Botanici Cantabrigiensis listed the species grown there and included P. inquinans, papilionaceum,
cucullatum, peltatum, acetosum, zonale, vitifolium, capitatum, alchimilloides, odoratissimum,
coriandrifolium, triste (all in the genus Geranium)
1772-82 – Mary Delaney – She was a well educated, twice married and widowed artist and letter
writer. She is known for her "paper mosaicks" (collages or decoupages) which she began
creating in her 70’s. Almost 1,000 of the 1,700 she made are of flowers. Among the gerani ums
are G. fulgidum, G. hermannifolium, G. afr. terebinthinum, G. lacerum and G. trigonum. These are housed
at the British Museum.
1773-77 – Francis Masson – He was the first official collector for Kew Gardens and collected in
South Africa from 1772-1774 (sometimes with Carl Thunberg) and again in 1785-1795. He collected 102
species of Pelargonium. He published only one book, Stapeliae Novae, in 1796 which included his own
drawings. He was collecting in the U.S. and Canada from 1797 to 1805 when he froze to death in
Canada in the winter of 1805/6
1780-1800 – Nikolaus J. Jacquin – Born in Holland, he eventually became the director of the
botanical gardens at the University of Vienna. He was an active collector and prolific
writer. He described and illustrated a number of species of Pelargonium in such publications
as Icones Plantarum Rariorum (1781-1793) and Plantarum Rariorum Horti Caesarei
1781/4 – John Fothergill – He was a wealthy Quaker physician in London with a botanic garden
in Upton which included 30 acres, one glasshouse 260 feet long; he employed 15 gardeners
and 3 or 4 artists. His 2000 paintings of plants were sold to the Empress of Russia. Many of his
plants were bought by John Lettsom who compiled and published Hortus Uptonensis (a list of
Fothergill's collections) which included 32 species of Geranium.
1787 – Antonio Cavanilles – In his Dissertatio Botanici de Geranio this Spanish botanist described
and illustrated ca. 70 species of Pelargonium (all in the genus Geranium) which he separated within
Geranium on the basis of floral symmetry. He was appointed Head of the Royal Garden in 1801.
1787-1801 – William Curtis – He was an English botanist at the Chelsea Physic Garden and also
had his own botanic garden. He published The Botanical Magazine by subscription
beginning in 1787. Each part contained three descriptions and one hand colored illustration.
One of his first three geranium illustrations was G. peltatum. His later illustrations
used the genus name Pelargonium
1789-92 – Charles Louis L’Heritier de Brutelle – His publication, Geraniologia, with very fine
illustrations by Pierre Redouté included 6 Erodium, 2 Monsonia, 5 Geranium and 31
Pelargonium. He worked with Joseph Banks in London on a disputed collection of
specimens from Peru and Chile. Upon returning to Paris he was murdered in 1801.
1789 – William Aiton – He was from Scotland and was an assistant to Philip Miller. Later he
was the superintendent of the Chelsea Physic Garden and director of Kew Botanical Gar den.
His Hortus Kewensis published in 1789 included descriptions of species of Pelargonium
provided by L’Heritier. The descriptions are useful for information about collectors and growers
and dates of introduction of species to England.
1797-1814 – Henry C. Andrews – His subscription publication, Botanical Repository, appeared
between 1797 and 1811. Volume 3 includes 42 geraniums. He was a publisher with a
small nursery and he was married to the daughter of John Kennedy a well known nurseryman.
His descriptions and illustrations were drawn from several prominent collections of the day.
He vigorously opposed the use of the name Pelargonium. See more below.
Images 19th Century
1801 – Carl Ludwig Willdenow – This German botanist revised and expanded Linnaeus’s
Species Plantarum and transferred species to the genus Pelargonium (in Vol.3, part 1,
published in 1801). Using Linnaeus's sexual system, he included Pelargonium in the
Monadelphia Heptandria (plants with seven stamens fused together). At the end of his career,
he was the director of the Berlin Botanical Garden.
1801-03 – Friedrich Gottlieb Dietrich – Dietrich was initially the Duke’s gardener at Weimar.
He knew and assisted Wolfgang von Goethe in his botanical works. Between 1801 and
1803 he published Die Linneischen Geranien … a work in five parts with four illustrations
per part. He published 16 major works including his ten volume Vollständigen Lexicon der Gärtnerei
und Botanik … published between 1802-1810 with 136 species of Pelargonium described in Band [Vol.] 7
(1807). This was followed by his 10 volume Nachtrag zum Vollständigen Lexikon der
Gärtnerei und Botanik … published from 1815-1821 with 116 species plus synonyms in Band [Vol.] 6
published in 1820.This was followed by his 10 volume Neuer Nachtrag zum Vollständigen Lexikon der
Gärtnerei und Botanik ... published between 1825-1840 with 41 species and synonyms in Band [Vol.] 6 (1837).
1803 – Carl Peter Thunberg – While in South Africa to learn Dutch, he travelled and collected
with Francis Masson. He continued on to Japan where he resided for three years. His
works include a Flora Capensis, Flora Japonicus and the record of plants cultivated in
Upsala (Horti Upsaliensis Planta Cultae 1780-1800) where he was Chair of Botany for 44 years.
The list includes 9 species of Erodium, 27 species of Pelargonium, 23 species
of Geranium and 2 species of Monsonia. His Nova Genera Plantarum includes the first
delineation of many genera of commonly grown plants.
1805 – Henry C. Andrews – His Monograph of Geranium included descriptions and illustrations
of 60 different plants.
1818 – William B. Page – Page’s Prodromus included a list of the plants cultivated in the Southampton
Botanic Garden. Under Gerania beginning on p. 137 he lists 117 species and their varieties in addition to 87
"fine seedling varieties."
1820-30 – Robert Sweet – As a nurseryman he published Hortus Suburbanus Londinensis in
1818 which contained 175 Pelargonium, 18 Erodium, 40 Geranium and 5 Monsonia.
Later he was a foreman at Colvill’s Nursery. His major work was Geraniaceae which
included illustrations and descriptions of 500 species and hybrids from several different
collections. He proposed the genera Campylia, Ciconium, Dimacria, Grenvillea,
Hoarea, Isopetalum, Otidia, Phymatanthus, Seymouria for various groups of species of
Pelargonium. Some of these categories are still used today. He was eventually acquitted
of a plant theft charge in 1824.
1820 – George Loddiges – Loddiges Catalogue – The catalog included a P. peltatum with variegated
foliage. The nursery was a father/son endeavor from 1770-1850’s. They published the Botanical Cabinet of
20 volumes with 2,000 illustrations. In 1822 they had the largest glasshouse in the world. On a visit to the
nursery in 1838, Charles Darwin saw 1279 cultivars of roses.
1821 – James Colvill – Colvill Catalogue – Another family nursery that used Sweet’s generic
names in their catalog. They had 40,000 sq. ft. of glasshouses and are reputed to have
offered about 500 cultivars of Pelargonium. Their list included P. peltatum, P. scutatum,
P. pinguifolium, and P. lateripes with two varieties: α roseum and ß rubrum.
1824 – Augustin P. de Candolle – This Swiss botanist included Pelargonium in Volume 1 of his
massive work Prodromus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis, which included 369
taxa of Pelargonium (plus 66 of Geranium and 45 of Erodium) He demoted Sweet’s
genera to sections under the genus Pelargonium. He trained in Paris with L’Heritier,
Cuvier and Lamarck. He coined the word “taxonomy” and believed in “Nature’s War”
or the principle of natural selection ("survival of the fittest"). Eventually he returned to
Geneva where he was the first of four generations of de Candolle botanists.
1825 – Philipp (Fillip) Maximillian Opiz – This Czech botanist worked in Prague and wrote
his first Flora at the age of 13. He is reported to have authored 500 journal articles in his
life and described 100 plant genera. His Die Pelargonien … translated de Candolle’s
Latin descriptions of Pelargonium into German.
1826-27 – Leopold Trattinnick – Another prolific botanist of means, he authored a number of
works with very fine illustrations. Of interest here is his Neue Arten von Pelargonien
… which described and illustrated 264 taxa in six volumes published between 1826 and 1843.
This work was conceived as a supplement to Sweet’s work but covered the many
hybrids being produced in Germany at that time. Each illustration is accompanied by a
Latin and German description and includes the source or originator of the plant, its parents
where known, and an explanation of the name.
1829 – Jakob von Reider – As a district court judge and landowner, he was one of the most prolific
writers on agriculture and horticulture in Bavaria. His Annalen der Blumisterei …
ran to 12 volumes between 1824 and 1836 and contains many fine illustrations including
23 Pelargoniums. His Beschreibung aller bekannten Pelargonien ... compiled descriptions of all the known
Pelargoniums at that time (about 635 taxa). That was followed in 1829 and 1830 by two additional
volumes entitled Abbildung von fűnf und zwanzig und beschreibung von hundert der neuesten
und merkwűrdigsten Pelargonien (that is, 50 illustrations and 200 more descriptions of the newest and most
remarkable Pelargoniums). So in all he pulled together or described over 800 different species and varieties
of Pelargonium and illustrations of about 75.
1835-37 – Christian Ecklon and Karl Zeyher – Ecklon, a Dane, and Zeyher, a German, coauthored
Enumeratio Plantarum Africae Australis. Together they named ca. 2,000 species of plants from South Africa.
They elevated many of the Pelargonium section names to generic level. Many of their botanical schemes ended
tragically and both lived out their lives in South Africa.