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Link: • Johan Peter Falck to Carl Linnaeus, 3 November 1766 n.s.
Dated 3 November 1766. Sent from St Petersburg (Russia) to (). Written in Swedish.


Adversed via Merchant Hultén, Johan Peter FalckFalck, Johan Peter (1732-1774).
Swedish. Professor of botany and
curator of the botanical garden of St
Petersburg. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
had the pleasure to receive Linnaeus’s letter [this letter has not come down to us]. It delights Falck that the plants he sent had safely arrived, for once. The plants are at the right place now, to be fully appreciated. Linnaeus’s has had doubts if the determination of Spiraea sorbifolia is correct and if it instead might be a species of Sambucus. If it thrives, it will disclose its right identity. If he is still wrong, he deserves to be punished since he has seen the original flowering plant. It can still be that the Captain of the ship played some tricks with the material.

Last autumn Falck gathered a bunch of seeds [fruits] of the false spiraea, the Spiraea sorbifolia to see whether they were ripe enough to develop into new plantlets. During spring they were sown into a whole bed and most of them developed well. By autumn they grew to the length of a finger. As a test they were left uncovered for the coming winter. That autumn Falck was also eager to study the outcome of fructification for Spiraea sorbifolia, but he could not find a single well-developed fruit; all were empty. Falck thinks that the plants prefer wetter conditions to thrive and develop seeds. However, the false spiraea develops side-shoots easily. He noted that the other species, Spiraea crenata produced plenty of well-developed fruits; he intends to sow these next spring.

During his first summer in the garden Falck threw a fruit of Nymphaea nelumbo from Volga in a ditch after having scratched it on one side and formed a humus-rich clay ball around it, according to the instructions of the Advisor of Collegium Medicum, Johann Jacob LercheLerche, Johann Jacob
(1703-1780). German. Naturalist.
Military physician in Russian service at
Astrakan. Travelled in Persia.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
. After all this hocus-pocus nothing happened.

This summer Falck tries once again, but this time he peeled off the outer layer of the seed-coat without destroying the seed embryo. Then he sowed the seeds in a pot with a mixture of humus-rich clay. After some eight days, when he inspected the pots, he could to his surprise see that the seeds had germinated. It could have been something to boast about for the Germans. But, the stupid gardener destroyed the whole experiment one day when Falck was away. He had by misunderstanding thrown away the small pots when he tried to save the big barrel, where Falck kept the pots when that jar’s upper edge risked drying out, by putting it under water.

Falck wonders whether Linnaeus might help him to get more, new seeds for next summer. He describes the peeled seed of Nymphaea, where the tender embryo is green; one can see the structure and shape of the leaves. At the base there is a pedicel-like structure, which may easily break.

A year ago Falck got bulbs of white lilies. Next summer flowering stalks appeared, which instead of carrying flowers developed bulbils at the joints to the bracts. He removed all the bulbils and put them in the soil as for other bulbs. Soon they produced leaves, and grow rather big by the autumn. Falck then asks if this phenomenon has been observed earlier. If he only knew the natural condition for this, the florists would never earn a kopek for such bulbs for his garden. Could it be that the growing conditions were too humid in the new greenhouses which had been built from fresh timber logs in rainy weather.

Falck discovered a kind of fungus, Lycoperdon, if he is not wrong, parasiticum, aggregatum, sessile, subglobosum; ore 3-fido; ”pulvere fusco”, among cones of a living spruce tree in the garden. Most of the cones were infested on both sides of the cone scales. Most of the fungi were in an early stage, thus the spore powder was intact. Falck is pleased to send some to Linnaeus and also wants to know what it is and if the fungus is previously known. He is not comfortable with the few books in the library of the Collegium Medicum.

Falck did not observe the fungus Peziza in Sweden, but here it is found on old planks. He has eagerly gathered information about what kind of fungi Russians eat and noted that they eat all kind of fungi except Amanita. But he believes that when they are starving they do not hesitate to try Amanita, especially if they have access to alcohol. This is their custom. One has to experience their strong nature and way of living to understand that. Falck assures Linnaeus that he is not lying.

Falck is worried about Linnaeus’s former student, Aleksandr Matveevich KaramyschewKaramyschew, Aleksandr Matveevich
(1744-1791). Russian. Disciple of
, and his companion and their way of enjoying life. Their behavior will shame Linnaeus and Uppsala University. Falck compares them to other students who were sent to Holland; they behaved excellently and were a credit to their university. They have also achieved suitable positions. Falck stresses that it would be a shame if the students who returned from Sweden were the only useless ones. He also concludes that nobody would be better suited to travel for the sake of natural history than those who are native Russians. They know the language, customs and can stand the climate better, and have the trust of the local people. A foreigner must speak through an interpreter with all the risks that may incur.

Falck wonders whether Adam KuhnKuhn, Adam (1741-1817).
American. Physician, Philadelphia.
Studied under Linnaeus at Uppsala
University in 1762-1763. Linnaeus’s only
American student. Correspondent of
is still in Europe or if he is among his friends in Virginia on the underside of the earth.

Falck asks about Pehr Forsskål’sForsskål, Peter
(1732-1763). Swedish. Naturalist and
explorer. Linnaeus’s student, professor
in Denmark in 1759. Joined a Danish
expedition to Egypt and Arabia in 1761.
Died at Jerîm, Arabia.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
treasures from the east. Is there any intention to publish them. Falck would neither hope nor wish that the stupid Christian Gottlieb KratzensteinKratzenstein, Christian Gottlieb
(1723-1795). Danish. Physician and
physicist. Professor in Halle, from 1754
professor of experimental physics at
Copenhagen. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
got this job. There are rumors in Russia about his foolishnesses when he was at the Academy, that one would declare him a complete idiot for a lot less. Falck also indicates the easiness with which one can be marked by the Academy.

If Linnaeus still is interested in having vernatio arborum [i.e. the leafing] observed in Uppsala, Falck is more than willing to do the same here, although he only has few trees and bushes. At least one might be able to observe some differences in the climate.

Falck sends his most humble regards to Linnaeus’s wife [Sara Elisabet LinnaeaMoraea, Sara Elisabet
(1716-1806). Swedish. Linnaeus’s wife.
Daughter of Johan Moraeus and Elisabet
Hansdotter Moraea. Mother of Carl
Linnaeus the Younger and of Elisabeth
Christina, Louisa, Sara Christina and
Sophia Linnaea.
], his daughters [Elisabeth Christina LinnaeaLinnaea, Sara Christina
(1751-1835). Swedish. Daughter of Carl
Linnaeus and Sara Elisabet Linnaea.
Sister of Carl Linnaeus the Younger and
of Elisabeth Christina, Louisa and
Sophia Linnaea.
, Louisa LinnaeaLinnaea, Louisa (1749-1839).
Swedish. Daughter of Carl Linnaeus and
Sara Elisabet Linnaea. Sister of Carl
Linnaeus the Younger and of Elisabeth
Christina, Sara Christina and Sophia
, Sara Christina LinnaeaLinnaea, Sara Christina
(1751-1835). Swedish. Daughter of Carl
Linnaeus and Sara Elisabet Linnaea.
Sister of Carl Linnaeus the Younger and
of Elisabeth Christina, Louisa and
Sophia Linnaea.
, Sophia LinnaeaLinnaea, Sophia (1757-1830).
Swedish. Daughter of Carl Linnaeus and
Sara Elisabet Linnaea. Sister of Carl
Linnaeus the Younger and of Elisabeth
Christina, Louisa and Sara Christina
Linnaea. Wife of Samuel Christoffer
] and Linnaeus.

P.S. 1 Falck’s migraine and melancholia are quite dreadful this autumn. In the summer he feels well; but as soon as the cold and bad weather make him stay indoors his sicknesses strikes him. He writes about the time in Uppsala when he first recognized this symptom 5 years ago by some aches in his right ear. The symptom has prevailed from that time although it can be surpassed by other symptoms. By now not even Laudanum liquidum can help. Once he took a dose of 50 drops of it without slightest result.

P.S. 2 He encloses seeds of some plants including stones [seeds] of Prunus Sibirica. Falck considers it a pity that the surgeons and the pharmacists did not send anything. It is known that they do not understand such things, but it is also known that they do not have the slightest interest in participating. They have all kinds of excuses; mostly they are overloaded with ordinary work. Under such circumstances Falck has no more requests, since they are anyhow impossible, superfluous or in vain.


a. (LS, IV, 132-134). [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


1. “Af Linnés brevvexling” (1871), p. 493   p.493.
2. Bref och skrifvelser (1912), vol. I:6, p. 59-62   p.59  p.60  p.61  p.62.