LEOPOLD TRATTINNICKBY WAYNE L. HANDLOS, Ph.D.
P. pseudociconium From Thesaurus Botanicus From Archiv der ... P. Ferdinandeum
Leopold Trattinnick was an important Austrian botanist who worked in the early
1800’s. While most “pelargonistes” have never seen or heard his name, he was a
major contributor to the literature ofPelargonium in the early decades of the 19th
century. At most, his name is mentioned in very few of the books onGeranium and
Pelargoniumin the 20th or 21st century. So, who is this person?
Leopold Trattinnick (his last name is sometimes spelled with only one ’n’) was born
near Vienna on May 26, 1764 to a wealthy and influential family. He was destined
to study law but his interests in nature were honored and he studied science and divided
his time amongst the fields of entomology, mineralogy and botany. Ultimately
the plant world won out and his publications were primarily on fungi and
flowering plants. He did not have an official position until 1806 when he became
the “Landschafts-Phytographen von Niederösterreich”. In 1809 the Kaiser of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, Francis I, appointed him “Kustos des K.k. Hof-
Naturalienkabinetts” (translation—Custodian of the Royal Natural History Collections).
He held this position until 1835/36. He died on January 14, 1849 at the age
of 84. Through the years he oversaw the publication of several “sumptuous” works
in the field of botany. Most of these works were illustrated with fine engravings and
many of them were beautifully hand-colored (this being the era before color printing).
Most of the illustrations were done by Franz Reinelli (a flower specialist at the
Royal Vienna porcelain works) and Ignaz Stremel (professor at the Vienna Academy).
One of his first publications (in 1797) wasAnleitung zur Cultur der ächten
Baumwolle in Österreich(Introduction to the culture of true cotton in Austria). This
was followed byGenera Plantarum Methodo Naturali Disposita, in 1802, which
was a proposal for a natural arrangement of some plant genera. From 1804-1806 he
publishedFungi Austriaci, Oesterreichs Schwämme, a volume
with descriptions and illustrations of the fungi of Austria including their natural
history. This was followed in 1809, with a second edition in 1830, ofDie
eßbaren Schwämme des Oesterreichischen Kaiserstaats (The edible mushrooms
of the Austrian Empire). This volume is still available in a reprint edition.
In 1805 he began hisThesaurus Botanicus with a second edition in 1819. This
work included 80 beautiful plates in a large format.
Between 1811 and 1818 hisArchiv der Gewächskunde appeared. This two volume
work included 250 engravings of plants.
Under the formidable title of:Auswahl vorzüglich schöner, seltener, berühmter,
und sonst sehr merkwürdiger Gartenpflanzen, in getreuen Abbildungen nebst
Erläuterungen über ihre Charakteristik, Verwandschaft, Klassification,
Geschichte, Verwendung, Cultur, und ästhetischen Ansichten(translation: Selection
of exquisitely beautiful, rare, famous and otherwise very strange garden
plants, in faithful pictures together with explanations of their characteristics, relationships/
kinship, classification, history, use, culture and aesthetic properties);
this publication appeared between 1812 and 1822. It included 219 engraved
plates, 218 of them hand-colored. A set sold in 1999 for £9,775!
From 1816 to 1822 he published two volumes of theFlora der Oesterreichischen
Kaiserthumes(Flora of the Austrian Empire), but the complete work
was never finished. The illustrations were taken from hisArchiv. The text is
said to be filled with poetic as well as botanical observations.
In 1823-24 hisRosacearum Monographia (Monograph of the Rose Family) was
published. This covered generic and species descriptions of plants in the rose
family. It was not illustrated.
In 1825 Trattinnick published hisGenera Nova Plantarum Iconibus Observationibusque
Illustrata, which appeared in 24 fascicles. The illustrations were not
colored but were very finely executed.
With this long introduction, establishing Trattinnick’s bona fides as a prolific
botanist, we get to the work that is of great interest toPelargonium lovers.
Between 1825 and 1843 he published six volumes describing and
illustrating 264“kinds” of Pelargonium. The title is normally cited as
Neue Arten von Pelargonien deutschen Ursprunges but the title page
continues als beytrag zu Robert Sweets Geraniaceen mit Abbildungen und Beschreibungen.
This translates as New kinds of Pelargoniums of German origin—as a contribution to Robert
Sweet’s Geraniaceae with illustrations and descriptions. Trattinnick was never at a loss for words
for his book titles
For each plant that Trattinnick included in this publication, he provided a description
in Latin, an extended description in German which included acknowledgement
of the person who supplied or hybridized the plant, the parentage of
the plant where known, cultural hints and the origin of the name of the plant.
Most were illustrated with a full page engraving which was hand-colored. In his
later publications, some of the plants were illustrated by single flowers and several
plants were included on a page.
For all practical purposes, the plants he named were either hybrids or mutations/
sports of existing named plants. By current convention, his species names would
be preceded by an ’X’ indicating that the plant was of hybrid origin. I suspect
that Trattinnick has been largely ignored by the botanical community because he
was dealing with hybrids and not biological species, i.e., the plants as found in
nature. However, since most gardeners are not concerned with biological species
by rather with interesting varieties or cultivars of plants, Trattinnick’s publications
are a treasure trove of what was available in Europe in the first half of
the 19th century. Even more, he gives you an idea about the ancestry of these
In addition, he included a key to all known Pelargoniums (some 700+ named
entities). Scattered throughout the volumes were garden calendars with suggestions
for what to do each month. There were also comments about the plants
being named by other botanists.
Much of the information in these volumes and many of the plants themselves,
were supplied by the German nurseryman, Jakob Klier.
Among his publications, Trattinnick is credited with the original Latin descriptions
of 405 plant names. The most well-known group of plants that he named is
the genus Hosta, the common garden perennial from Japan. Hosta was named in
honor of his contemporary and friend, Nicolaus Thomas Host (1761-1834).
Nicolaus Host was the personal physician to Francis I, Emperor of Austria; he
was appointed the first director of the Gardens for Austrian Plants at the Belvedere
Palace in Vienna. His primary plant interest was in the grasses.
The genus Trattinickia (Burseraceae) was named in honor of L. Trattinnick by
the famous German botanist, C.L. Willdenow. Willdenow is well-known as the
director of the Berlin Botanical Garden and his revision, expansion and updating
of Linnaeus’ famous work—Species Plantarum.
Two additional publications by Trattinnick have come to light while writing this
article. They are Botanisches Taschenbuch oder Conservatorium aller Resultate
Ideen und Ansichten aus dem ganzen Umfange der Gewächskunde, Vienna, 1821
(translated as Botanical notebook or conservatory of all resulting ideas and views
from the whole range of botany)
and Oesterreichischer Blumenkranz, 1819 (described as “no botany in verse, but pure botanical poetry, representing
the work of the important Austrian botanist; 200 plants from the white lily to the sharp stonecrop
So, we can only lament the fact that most authors have ignored the wonderful illustrations and the wealth of
information contained in Trattinnick’s volumes. With the advent of the electronic age, several of his works
are now available over the internet. Some of them are even available in more than one format. Some you
can download to your cell phone. Will wonders never cease? [Go to Google Books and type in the word -
Trattinnick or Go to Google Images and type in Trattinnick Pelargonien. You should be amazed.]