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Linnaeus at 300

Articles: Linnaeus at 300

At a recent board meeting for a Pacific Northwest horticultural organization, the world-wide celebration to honor the 300th anniversary of Carl Linnaeus’s birth was announced. From the looks on some of the faces in the room, the bearer of the news would seem to have been speaking Latin. Although experienced gardeners rely on a system of classification developed by Linnaeus in the mid-1700s, his name is still unfamiliar to many self-taught gardening veterans. With the tercentenary celebrations about to begin, we hope that will soon change.

Named after the then reigning king of Sweden, Carl Linnaeus was born in May 1707, in Småland, a province in southern Sweden. His surname was chosen by his clergyman father, in honor of a tall linden tree (Tilia sp.) that stood close to his farmhouse. In recognition of his great service to Sweden and science, Linnaeus was knighted in 1757 and assumed his name as a nobleman: Carl von Linné. Today, von Linné is often referred to as the “Father of Taxonomy.”

During his school years, Linnaeus’s teachers believed that it would be impossible to reconcile Carl’s dislike for scholarly studies and his obsession with plants, so they urged him to be...

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