Werner Rothmaler

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Memorial plaque in Greifswald

Werner Walter Hugo Paul Rothmaler (born August 20, 1908 in Sangerhausen ; † April 13, 1962 in Leipzig ) was a German botanist and from 1953 to 1962 head of the Institute for Agricultural Biology at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University in Greifswald . His specialties were plant geography and systematics . Its official botanical author abbreviation is “ Rothm. "


Werner Rothmaler was already fascinated by botany during his school days. His studies became such a priority that he finished high school without a high school diploma. From 1927 he completed an apprenticeship as a gardener in Weimar and Potsdam. For a certain time he worked as an archivist for aristocratic families near Halle (Saale) and in Glauchau .

During his time in Potsdam he came into contact with the plant geographer Ludwig Diels , the director of the Botanical Museum and the Botanical Garden in Berlin-Dahlem . Since it was not possible to study because of the lack of a high school diploma, Rothmaler was offered to work as a student trainee in Jena with the botanists Theodor Herzog , Otto Renner and Erwin Brünning . His mentor from the time in Potsdam, Ludwig Diels, gave him the job of a botanical collecting expedition in Spain in 1933. This should result in a stay of several years. During this time, Rothmaler made his way through various activities at botanical and pharmaceutical institutes, but at the same time was still active as a collector of plants and thus developed into an excellent expert on Spanish flora.

At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War , Rothmaler was on vacation in Portugal, a return to Spain was no longer possible. However, he managed to get various jobs here, most recently at the National Research Institute for Agriculture in Lisbon. In 1940 Rothmaler saw no possibility of remaining in Portugal and returned to Germany with his wife. Soon after, he was drafted into the military. After seven months of service on the Eastern Front, he was released because of open pulmonary tuberculosis.

He succeeded in getting rid of the missing school leaving examination and in 1943 in Berlin to do his doctorate with Ludwig Diels with the text Vegetation Studies in Southwestern Portugal .

When the war ended, Rothmaler was near Stecklenberg in the Harz Mountains . The previous facility of today's Leibniz Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research was relocated there. Under the influence of the Soviet cultural officers, the research group was assigned a large farm, the Gatersleben domain, near Gatersleben as a new location. Rothmaler was soon given a department head position.

In 1947 Rothmaler completed his habilitation at the University of Halle with a work that has not yet been published on the genus Lachemilla ( family of rose plants , Subtribus Alchemillinae), which is widespread in Central and South America . In 1949 he became a lecturer in Halle and in 1950 a professor with a teaching position.

During the time in Gatersleben and Halle in 1950, Rothmaler published his work General Taxonomy and Chorology of Plants and the first edition of the Exkursionsflora , a “plant identification book for schools and universities”.

In 1953 Rothmaler was offered a professorship with a full teaching position in Greifswald, where he was appointed head of the Institute for Agricultural Biology.

On the initiative of Rothmaler, the scientific student group "Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck" was founded in 1953 at the University of Greifswald for students interested in field biology, zoology, botanics and ecological issues.

Rothmaler was married twice. The first marriage (with Wilhelmine Neumann, * 1911) had two daughters (Ursula and Susanne), and the second marriage (with Elisabeth Kecker, * 1921, † 1993) had two sons ( Valentin Konrad Gottfried and Philipp Sebastian).

Rothmaler received a state funeral in Weimar.


Rothmaler was the author and editor of a number of botanical monographs and textbooks. He published more than 190 writings, including a monograph of the genus Antirrhinum (1956) and his best-known work, the “ Exkursionsflora von Deutschland ” (3 volumes) (Berlin 1966) , which emerged from his excursion flora .

The current edition of the 7th edition of “Exkursionsflora” (commonly referred to as “ Rothmaler ”), which was published in 1972 , comprises five volumes: Lower Plants (Volume 1), Vascular Plants - Basic Volume (Volume 2), Vascular Plants - Atlas Volume (Volume 3), Critical supplementary volume (Volume 4 - since 1970) and Volume 5 - Herbaceous ornamental and useful plants.

In contrast to other floras, such as the Oberdorfer , the second volume is supplemented by a third volume atlas ribbon (vascular plants), in which the essential defining characteristics are clarified by line drawings. The third volume contains black and white drawings of all 2800 species identifiable in the second volume and is therefore a unique aid for species identification. The fourth volume also includes critical clans of vascular plants, i.e. clans that are difficult to identify as well as subspecies, varieties and ecotypes. Some clans that are critical for their determination are illustrated in a special portal using checked herbarium scans. In contrast, the location information on the plant species in the fourth volume is not as detailed as in the " Oberdorfer ". Up to the 10th edition in 2005, the fourth volume also contained information on chromosome numbers. These are now shown in detail in a database. The fifth volume was published in 2008 and aims to identify the herbaceous ornamental and useful plants cultivated outdoors in Germany.

Taxa named after Rothmaler

The genus Rothmaleria Font Quer (with the species Rothmaleria granatensis ) from the sunflower family (Asteraceae) is named after Werner Rothmaler .

In addition to this generic name, the following names of plant species, subspecies and hybrids as well as a type of mushroom remind Werner Rothmaler:


In 2008, on the occasion of Rothmaler's 100th birthday, a plaque of honor was attached to the family's former home in Greifswald on the initiative of the Lamarckkreis he founded.


  • Hanns Kreisel : We called him Vadder. Werner Rothmaler - an exceptional university professor 1908–1962. Greifswald University Speeches , New Series No. 90. Greifswald 1999, ISBN 3-86006-131-3 (Reprint of a lecture on the occasion of Werner Rothmaler's 90th birthday)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Rothmaler (Ed.): Exkursionflora. A plant identification book for schools and universities. Berlin 1957.
  2. Werner Rothmaler: Excursion flora for the areas of the GDR and FRG. Provided by Hermann Meusel and Rudolf Schubert . Berlin 1972.
  3. Werner Rothmaler: Exkursionflora von Deutschland, critical supplementary volume. Berlin 1970.
  4. ^ Determination-critical taxa for the flora of Germany
  5. Chromosome numbers for flora in Germany
  6. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .