Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Plant genus Ternstroemia named after Linnaeus apostle Christopher Tärnström

The plant genus name Ternstroemia refers to the Swedish botanist Christopher Tärnström [1]. He as a student of Carl Linnaeus in Uppsala, Sweden. Rob R. Dunn counts Tärnström was one of the apostles of Linnaeus (there were seventeen), who were to travel around the world and collect plants and other items of interest to natural science. Five of them died of disease and never made it back to Uppsala. Tärnström shared this fate in 1746: he died of a tropical fever in what is now Vietnam—within in a week of his arrival and without collecting a single plant. He was among the best and favorite students of Linnaeus, who immortalized Tärnström by naming a genus of tropical plants with beautiful flowers after him.

Ternstroemia species belong to the Theacea family of flowering plants [2]. Theacea genera are typically evergreens and found in tropical parts of the world including southern and eastern Asia, Africa, New Guinea, and Central and South America, but also the Canary Islands and the southeastern United States.

Keywords: botany, history, expeditions, tropical field research, Vietnam

[1] Rob R. Dunn: Every Living Thing. First Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; in particular, see footnote on page 61.
[2] Kew: Vascular Plant Families and Genera - List of genera in family Theaceae [].

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