Species Plantarum

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Title page of the first volume of the 1st edition of Species Plantarum (1753)

Species Plantarum (Latin; 'plant species') is the title of a two-volume work byCarl von Linné, in which he described all theplantspeciesknown to himand for the first time gave a two-part name (binomial)for each species. At theII International Botanical Congress(IBC), which metinViennain 1905, the date of publication of Species Plantarum was set as the beginning of modernnomenclature for plants.


The first edition appeared in 1753 under the full title Species plantarum, exhibentes plantas rite cognitas, ad genera relatas, cum differentiis specificis, nominibus trivialibus, synonymis selectis, locis natalibus, secundum systema sexuale digestas by the Stockholm publisher Lars Salvius (1706–1773) and is Dedicated to the Swedish royal couple Adolf Friedrich and Luise Ulrike .

Albrecht von Haller described the work as Linné's “maximum opus et aeternum”.

History of origin

Page 1 from Species Plantarum with the description of the species of the genus Canna

Already in the spring of 1733 Linnaeus mentioned the intention to write Species Plantarum . He wrote in a letter to the Chancellor of Uppsala University Gustaf Cronhjelm (1664–1737):

"Η and Θ is species plantarum , where I intend to show that although the Botanici boast of having discovered 20,000 species by that time, there are in fact no more than 8000 after the variations are brought among their species [ ...] that you can find every plant in primo intutiu without a description or figure. "

Almost twenty years passed before this extensive project was finally realized, during which Linnaeus acquired detailed knowledge of plants through research trips to his home country Sweden , the description of local flora and the inventory of botanical gardens .

In a letter to Abraham Bäck , the Species Plantarum project was mentioned again in early September 1746:

"I'm currently busy with Species Plantarum and work on it from morning to evening that I almost turn gray from it."

A good three years later, however, in mid-October 1749, Linnaeus wrote:

“I'm starting to get Species plantarum completely out of my thoughts; I haven't had time to heed it since last year. I brought her to the Polyandria then ; it is impossible for me to send them out for a whole year of constant work; I want to leave behind what I have made as an inventory so that posterity can see that I would have been able to do it if I had had the time and wanted it. But should I work myself to death, should I never see or taste the world? What do I gain from it? You don't get smart about it except at the end. "

At the beginning of 1751, Linnaeus took up the Species Plantarum challenge again . The progress he made in creating the work can be seen in the letters written to Bäck:

  • Beginning of July 1751: “I'm finally to Poa ” - p. 67
  • End of November 1751: “I came to Icosandria ” - p. 466
  • Mid-March 1752: "reached the Syngenesia " - p. 789
  • Middle of June 1752 “I have finished my species.” - p. 1200

After a year, Linnaeus had described around 7,300 species on 1200 pages.


Canna indica is the first plantto be given a two-part namein Species Plantarum .

Linnaeus knew all of the plant species described in Species Plantarum firsthand. He had either observed the plants during his travels through Sweden, examined them as cultivated specimens in botanical gardens, or studied them using herbarium material .

In his foreword ( Lectori Aequo ) Linné u. a. briefly about the trips he undertook, the gardens and herbariums described and his students. The preface is followed by a list of the authors cited by him ( Auctores , divided into Reformatores and Usitatiores ).

The appendix consists of an index of the genera ( Index Genorum ), an index of synonyms ( Index Synonymorum ) and a list of trivial names ( Nomina trivialia ).

The main part consists of the brief descriptions of the plant species. Each plant has a descriptive species name, which Linnaeus formulated according to his rules set out in Philosophia Botanica . After the species name, the works in which this name was used are cited in an abbreviated manner. Synonymous names of other authors follow . If Linnaeus has previously named the species differently in one of his works, these synonyms come first. For rare or newly discovered plants, he added a reference to an illustration to the description. At the end of each species description it gives information on the distribution area of ​​the species and uses a symbol to indicate whether the plant is annual (☉), biennial (♂) or persistent (♃).

The epithet , which he noted as a marginal note for each type in the margin and which is an innovation compared to his earlier works, is of particular importance . The generic name and the epithet together form the binary name of the species, as it is still used today in modern botanical nomenclature .

Linnaeus' description of Canna indica looks like this:

1. CANNA foliis ovatis utrinque acuminatis nervoſis. Indica
Roy. lugdb. 11. Fl. zeyl. 1. Hort. upſ. 1.
Canna ſpatulis bifloris. Hort. cliff. 1.
Arundo indica latifolia. Bauh. pin. 19.
Habitat inter tropicos Aſiae, Africae, Americae. ♃


  • 1st edition, Lars Salvius: Stockholm 1753, 8 °
  • 2nd edition, Lars Salvius: Stockholm 1762, 8th
  • 3rd edition, Johann Thomas von Trattner: Vienna 1764, 8 ° - corrected reprint of the 2nd edition

Binary nomenclature of plants

In Pinax Theatri Botanici (Basel 1623), Caspar Bauhin was the first to attempt to order the confusing variety of plant names (around 6000 species). He made a consistent distinction between the terms “genus” and “species”. In Bauhin, a plant was described by a generic name and at least one epithet that distinguished the species described from other species of the same genus. With the discovery of new plant species, the differentiating phrases (“diagnostic” names) became longer and longer. One of the irises species wore example, the name Iris latifolia germanica ochroleucos venis flavescentibus et purpurascentibus distincta . In order to quote a species, you actually had to give the complete description of the species.

In the manuscripts on Species Plantarum worked out by Linnaeus up to 1749, there is still no reference to two-part names. In the index of the travelogue Ölandska och Gothländska Resa (1745), however, he had already shortened the plant names in a binary way. Linnaeus first formulated the idea of ​​a "common name" for the species in paragraph 257 of Philosophia Botanica (1751). He wrote:

“A valid name for a species should distinguish the plant from all others in its genus; their trivial name can be chosen independently of any rules. "

This name added to the generic name, the epithet , was intended to express as much as possible the essential difference between the species and other species of the same genus. A particularly conspicuous label, local expressions or the names of the discoverers were also permitted for Linnaeus.

The result of the introduction of two-part plant names is the consistent separation of the description of a species from its name .


Web links

Notes and individual references


  1. Carl Linnaeus at Gustaf Cronhjelm, Spring 1733, letter L0028 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed on 17 March 2008).
  2. ^ Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, September 5, 1746, Letter L0725 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).
  3. Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, October 17, 1749, Letter L1060 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).
  4. Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, July 9, 1751, Letter L1285 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).
  5. Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, November 23, 1751, Letter L1339 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).
  6. Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, March 17, 1752, Letter L1394 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).
  7. Carl Linnaeus to Abraham Bäck, June 16, 1752, Letter L1436 in The Linnaean Correspondence (accessed March 17, 2008).


  1. ^ John Isaac Briquet : Congress in Vienna. Règles internationales de la nomenclatura. Jena 1906, p. 55
  2. The date of publication was set on May 1, 1753 (cf. for example " Tokyo Code " (PDF; 826 kB) § 13.5).
  3. The first volume appeared in May, the second in August 1753.
  4. The preface Lectori Aequo is dated May 2, 1753.
  5. ^ Richard Pulteney: A General View of the Writings of Linnaeus . London 1781, p. 107
  6. a b c German translation after: Felix Bryk: Linne und die Species Plantarum . P. 64
  7. 1732 Lapland , 1734 Dalarna , 1741 Öland and Gotland , 1746 Västergötland and 1749 Skåne
  8. 1737 Flora Lapponica , 1745 Flora Suecica and 1747 Flora Zeylanica .
  9. 1738 Hortus Cliffortianus and 1748 Hortus Upsaliensis
  10. ^ Karl Mägdefrau: History of Botany. Life and Achievement of Great Researchers . 2nd edition, p. 46
  11. Caspar Bauhin: Theatri Botanici sive Historiae Plantarum . Johann König: Basel 1658, Lib. I, Sect. VI, cap. V., III. (Sp. 585)
  12. Felix Bryk: Linne and the Species Plantarum . P. 64
  13. 257. Noun specificum legitimum plantam ab omnibus congeneribus distinguat; Trivial autem nomen legibus etiamnum caret.
  14. Peter Seidensticker: Plant names: Tradition, research problems, studies . Franz Steiner Verlag: 1999, pp. 33-36