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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Friday, 6 June 2014

On This Day, 6 June; Swedish National Day

Today is celebrated by Swedes as their National Day, commemorating the election of Gustav Eriksson as first king of Sweden in 1523 (no, I know kings aren't usually elected, but he was - they do things differently there). This gave Sweden independence from a Danish-dominated confederacy, though the day wasn't formally celebrated until 1916, and didn't become the official National Day until 1983. 

Nonetheless that's good enough for them, and good enough for our purpose, which is to celebrate Swedes whose names are commemorated in Australian plants and animals - in practice it's mostly plants. As was usual for the time, many of those celebrated had no connection with Australia or its biota, but were being honoured by their peers; at least today's featured Swedes were all biologists, not patrons or other non-biologists whose favours taxonomists often tried to win with a name.

I'll start with the one who really did come to Australia, Daniel Solander, a star pupil of Linnaeus himself (surely the greatest of all Swedish biologists) who was engaged by Sir Joseph Banks to sail as a naturalist on the Endeavour with James Cook in 1770. Solander had been invited to London to teach the new classification system, and became employed by the British Museum, from which he took leave to accompany Banks. Using the Linnaean system he catalogued the expedition's collections while still at sea; using little reference cards he filled 27 volumes of animals and 25 of plants. He became and remained a good friend of Banks, who employed him as librarian, but died in London aged just 49.
Geranium solanderi, Namadgi National Park, above Canberra.
There is an animal named for him too, the Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri, named by John Gould 62 years after Solander's death. For a while there were two, but Coenraad Temminck's name Psittacus solanderi was pre-empted - the really weird thing is that it was Temminck himself who'd provided the earlier valid name!
Glossy Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami, named by Temminck for English ornithologist
John Latham in 1807, a fact he'd apparently forgotten 14 years later when he tried to name it again for Solander!
After Solander's early death, Banks appointed Jonas Dryander, another pupil of Linnaeus, to replace him as his private librarian - Swedes were much in demand at the time, thanks in large part to Linnaeus. A very large and impressive genus of Western Australian members of the family Proteaceae was named for him; to much consternation and angst however it seems that Dryandra will be subsumed - for excellent taxonomic reasons I hasten to add - into the larger and more widely familiar genus Banksia.
Dryandra sp. (at least for now, perhaps) near Albany.
Other eminent Swedes also bloom on in Australia, though the original owners of the names never came here or studied Australian plants. In my part of the world the best known is the man who gave his name to the genus of the Australian Capital Territory's floral emblem Wahlenbergia gloriosa. (That's a story, and a controversial one, in itself, but we talked about that here, in an earlier post.)
Wahlenbergia stricta (and visitor), family Campanulaceae, Canberra.
Goran Wahlenberg, who German Heinrich Schrader commemorated with the name in 1821, was a botanist and
medical professor who specialised in Arctic plants.
Abraham Baeck was another late 18th century botanist-physician, who became personal physician to the King of Sweden; he was also a close friend of Linnaeus, who honoured him with a mostly Australian genus of Myrtaceae.
Baeckea utilis, Kosciuszko National Park.
Swedish Royal Physicians are better represented in Australia than most of us probably suspect - a widespread genus of aromatic Australian shrubs in the garden herb family, including some familiar east coastal ones, is named for another one.
Westringia rigida, Nullarbor Plain, western South Australia.
Westringia was named for Johan Westring by English botanist John Smith.
Westring mixed his royal caring duties with studies of lichens.
Johann Frankenius was another eminent Swedish botanist and anatomist who made the first complete listing of Swedish plants. Again it was Linnaeus who honoured him with the name of a delightful Australian plant genus - though he was not, as one apparently reputable source suggests, a friend of Linnaeus, since he died some 40 year before Linnaeus was born.
Massed Frankenia sp., in dry lake bed near Mount Magnet, inland Western Australia.
The genus is widely spread in Mediterranean parts of the world, though the majority are Australian.
Finally, yet another botanical colleague of Linnaeus is found in many damp places in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, where sedges grow.
Gahnia grandis, Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania.
The saw sedges have savage little silicon teeth along the edges of the leaves,
which I'm sure is no reflection on Henry Gahn for whom they are named.
So, happy day to any Swedish readers I may have! If you can't visit soon, at least know that you're well represented in our bushland. And I trust the rest of you will join me in raising a glass to our Swedish friends. Skål!

BACK ON TUESDAY

2 comments:

Susan said...

Solander is also the inventor of that dashed useful object the Solander box.

I had no idea that the rest of your list were Swedish!

Ian Fraser said...

It's always a pleasure to offer you something you didn't know! I only came across the concept of a Solander box while reading for the posting.