On this day 232 years ago, botany, and science in general, lost a real rock star. Carl von Linné (aka Carl Linnaeus or Carolus Linnaeus), the father of modern taxonomy, passed away at the age of 71 on 10 January 1778. The painting below (from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carolus_Linnaeus_by_Hendrik_Hollander_1853.jpg) depicts a young Linnaeus on a collecting trip.
So what is that in Linnaeus' right hand? If you guessed a plant with a genus that bears his name, you are correct.
This is Linnaea borealis, Twinflower. In 1732, Linnaeus explored Lapland, a northern province of Sweeden, and collected 537 specimens during a season that he described as one of the most fruitful of his life. Over 100 of the plants that he collected on this trip were new to science. One of the specimens that he collected was a plant known as Campanula serpyllifolia. Thought to be rare before the Lapland excursion, Linnaeus found an abundance of this species on the foray. About this discovery, he wrote: "I tied my horse to an ancient Runic monumental stone, and, accompanied by a guide, climbed the mountain on the left side. Here were many uncommon plants, as Fumaria bulbosa minima, Campanula serpyllifolia, Adoxa moschatellina, &c., all in greater perfection than ever I saw them before." Campanula serpyllifolia was said to be Linnaeus' favorite plant. The Dutch botanist J.F. Gronovius later renamed the genus of this plant Linnaea in honor of Linnaeus. About this honor, Linnaeus self-mockingly wrote: "Linnaea was named by the celebrated Gronovius and is a plant of Lapland, lowly, insignificant and disregarded, flowering but for a brief space - from Linnaeus who resembles it." Linnaeus gave Twinflower the specific epithet borealis, meaning "of northern regions." Many paintings of Linnaeus, including his wedding picture, portray him holding a specimen of Twinflower. (http://www.plantbiology.siu.edu/PLB304/Lecture03HistTax/HistoryTaxon.html; http://www.linnean.org/index.php?id=381; http://www.linnaeus.uu.se/online/animal/1_16.html)
For more information on Linnaea borealis, see my recent post at Through Handlens and Binoculars.
Incidentally, some people say that Linnaeus has come back to life and is masquerading as a Japanese hibachi chef...
... but those claims are just "wild."