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The edelweiss was already anointed in the low mountain ranges in the 19th century
The same applies to the European cyclamen
The iris is one of the native species that is often brought to new locations
The Hercules shrub was not anointed to enrich the flora, but rather for economic reasons

Anointing describes the conscious application by sowing or planting of alien plants in nature with the aim of enriching the flora by humans. Other conscious plantings of neophytes in the wild, for example for the purposes of gardening and landscaping, are therefore not anointing. Since anointing is considered a falsification of flora in nature conservation , the term has a negative connotation (see also the meaning of the word below). Anointing, like all planting of alien plants that are not used in agriculture or forestry, is subject to approval in Germany according to Section 40 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act.


The botanist Gerhard Wagenitz has rediscovered the origin of the word “anoint” because he could not find an etymology in the scientific literature , although the word is generally used as a botanical term. Accordingly, the word can be traced back to a passage in Alessandro Manzoni's novel I Promessi Sposi (German: The betrothed or the bride and groom ), which was finally completed in 1842 . There it is said that during the plague epidemic in Milan in 1630, people, especially strangers, were suspected of spreading the "poison" of the plague by painting walls with appropriate ointments , i. H. to "anoint" the plague. Since Manzoni relied on historical sources for his novel, above all a work by Ripamonti, this allegation may actually have been made by the Milanese of 1630. Manzoni's novel was so widespread in translations in the German-speaking area in the 19th century that the Berlin botanist Wilhelm Vatke (1849–1889) was able to transfer the expression “anointing” to botanical conditions, apparently without further explanations being necessary because the (negative ) Meaning was generally clear. Subsequently, the novel was forgotten in Germany, but the word "anoint" was introduced in botany and was used without a definition.

Another explanation comes from pharmacy : Pharmacists of earlier times often made ointments or other pharmaceuticals themselves, sometimes from non-native plants. To reduce the cost of these exotic plants, they planted them in their own environment. This was supposedly called anointing in pharmacists' language .

Anointing motifs

There was anointing as early as the 19th century, the heyday of the so-called acclimatization societies , when lovers of botany tried specifically to enrich nature by introducing new species. One of the species most often anointed in urban walls that are perceived as “deserted and empty” is the cymbal herb , which, like many other anointed species, blooms beautifully and abundantly.

Often anointing is understood as an individual contribution to the preservation of the anointed, sometimes rare species and thus to nature conservation. This is viewed critically by biologists, as such actions should only take place within the framework of conceptual resettlement and population support measures. A final motive for anointing especially rare and therefore scientifically interesting species outside their natural range is to be able to subsequently find these species and to be able to publish the findings scientifically or to confuse botanists by the appearance of non-native species (as is the case for the Anointing of the invasive American skunk cabbage in the Taunus is suspected). All forms of this “natural enrichment” are viewed by nature conservation as “tinkering” with natural processes and, like the release of alien species, generally viewed critically by invasion biology . In addition to possible ecological effects, anointing also disguises natural area boundaries and the natural frequency of, for example, endangered species on the Red Lists .

Often anointed plants

The invasion biologist Kowarik has worked out the following types for anointed species:

Anointing of native species

  • Anointing of alpine plants such as Sempervivum species or edelweiss on rocky locations in the low mountain ranges . The most important factor here is the desire to enrich nature with attractive plants.
  • Anointing of native aquatic and marsh plant species. Riverside and aquatic plants, which were never autochthonous (indigenous) in the nearer region, were often used in bodies of water for the supposed ecological enhancement . Examples of this would be the application of the marsh marigold , marsh iris and the Siberian iris in locations where they are not normally found.
  • Anointing of floristic rarities that are native to the area, but are in decline there or have already died out, such as B. many native orchids and plant species of the grasslands.
  • Anointing of attractively blooming species that are native to Central Europe, but are absent in this area. This applies, for example, to the diptame , which was naturalized in Upper Franconia in this way .

Anointing of alien species

  • Aquatic and marsh plants. This happens particularly often from the desire for nature to be enriched by alien species. One of the oldest examples with markedly negative consequences was the spread of the Canadian waterweed . The employees of the Berlin Botanical Garden were involved in the suspension , and in 1859 they planted this plant on three lakes in the Berlin area.
  • Plants of oligotrophic moors. It is mainly the heather family .
  • Wall plants such as the cinnabar or the yellow lark spur , which were specifically brought out to enrich the urban landscape .

See also: flora falsification , neophytes , ethelochory


  • Gerhard Wagenitz: About the word "anointing". In: Floristische Rundbriefe 34, 2001, ISSN  0934-456X , pp. 25-27. Reprinted in: Zeitschrift für Germanistische Linguistik 30, 2, 2002, pp. 252-257. ( doi: 10.1515 / zfgl.2002.017 )
  • Jürgen Schwaar: "Anointing" - yes or no - Are we allowed to counteract the depletion of vegetation by spreading threatened plant species? In: Congress and conference reports of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg 26, 4, 1986, pp. 66–67.
  • Ingo Kowarik: Biological Invasions. Neophytes and Neozoa in Central Europe. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-8001-3924-3 .


  1. ^ Richard Gleim in: Multipurpose bags - magazine for non-linear lifestyle ( Memento of September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), September 8, 2004, on June 11, 2008 no longer available.