Plant Porn

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Being in Sweden now, I’m not getting much blogging done because there are Things To See. One of them, especially if you take an interest in plants, is the house of Carl Linnaeus in Uppsala. Houses, in fact, as he also had a summer residence not far away. Linnaeus established a binary system for classifying plants according to the number and arrangement of their stamens and pistils, and he described the sexual life of plants with some delectation. “The actual petals of a flower contribute nothing to generation, serving only as the bridal bed which the great Creator has so gloriously prepared, adorned with such precious bedcurtains, and perfumed with so many sweet scents, in order that the bridegroom and bride may therein celebrate their nuptials with the greater solemnity.”

Tame stuff, you might think, but it was all too much for some of his contemporaries. The Reverend Samuel Goodenough found that he needed to tell us that “to tell you that nothing could equal the gross prurience of Linnaeus’s mind is perfectly needless.” When Linnaeus pointed out that pollen from several male plants could impregnate one female plant, Johann Siegesbeck retorted that such “loathsome harlotry would not be permitted in the vegetable kingdom by the Creator.” Linnaeus promptly gave the name Siegesbeckia to a particularly ugly, foul-smelling weed.

Linnaeus’s system of nomenclature is still largely with us. “If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost too,” he wrote in Philosophia Botanica (1751)Of course, that presupposes that unlike me, you have some knowledge to lose in the first place, as opposed to vast ignorance. So in place of a botanical treatise, all I can offer you here are a few pictures (PG rated). I’m afraid I didn’t write down the names. I call them flowers.