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LEOPOLD TRATTINNICK    BY 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 of Pelargonium in the early decades of the 19th

century. At most, his name is mentioned in very few of the books on Geranium and

Pelargonium in 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) was Anleitung zur Cultur der ächten

Baumwolle in Österreich (Introduction to the culture of true cotton in Austria). This

was followed by Genera Plantarum Methodo Naturali Disposita, in 1802, which

was a proposal for a natural arrangement of some plant genera. From 1804-1806 he

published Fungi 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, of Die

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 his Thesaurus Botanicus with a second edition in 1819. This

work included 80 beautiful plates in a large format.

Between 1811 and 1818 his Archiv 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 the Flora der Oesterreichischen

Kaiserthumes (Flora of the Austrian Empire), but the complete work

was never finished. The illustrations were taken from his Archiv. The text is

said to be filled with poetic as well as botanical observations.

In 1823-24 his Rosacearum 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 his Genera 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 to Pelargonium lovers.

P. circumscriptum

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

new plants.

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.

Nicolaus Thomas Host (1761-1834)

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

poetically imagined”.

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.]