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Link: • Carl Peter Thunberg to Carl Linnaeus, 28 June 1773 n.s.
Dated d. 28 Junii 1773.. Sent from Cape Town (South Africa) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in Swedish.


A Dutch ship in need of fresh water has unexpectedly landed, and Carl Peter ThunbergThunberg, Carl Peter
(1743-1828). Swedish. Botanist,
physician, explorer. Professor of
medicine and botany at Uppsala. Studied
medicine under Linnaeus in Uppsala,
medicine and surgery in Paris, natural
history under Johannes Burman in
Amsterdam. Travelled in South Africa in
1772-1775, in Japan 1775-1776, Java and
Ceylon in 1777-1778. Correspondent of
takes advantage of this opportunity to write to Linnaeus. The shortage of grain must be serious in Holland when they have to import it from so distant shores. This has never happened before but is a result of the war in Poland. In the Cape wheat is the dominant grain. Barley is grown only to feed horses. Rye is not in use. Oats was introduced from Europe but is now banned and regarded as a weed. Oats ripens early but shrivels in the heat and is carried away by the strong wind. Then it chokes all the other crop in the fields. Thus, wheat, wine, and cattle are the farmers’ main resources here.

The fertility of Africa is famous but it is not due to the soil; it is due to the climate. The Cape is not densely populated because of the barren soil and the shortage of water. Farms are found near the mountains where there is water.

The ploughs are different from Swedish ploughs. Slaves drive them with six horses or oxen. The crops are rich: one grain of corn is said to yield up to 80 grains but the normal amount is 20 to 30. Thunberg has never seen more than 41.

Barley is ripe in November and wheat in December. A sickle is used for mowing. Threshing takes place in the fields on circular surfaces surrounded by clay walls. The crops are strewn on them, a dozen horses are let in and kept moving by a man with a whip. Thus the grains are separated and collected.

Thunberg realizes that Linnaeus must be tired of reading so much about African agriculture, therefore he will says something about plants, which will [hopefully] amuse Linnaeus more. A few weeks ago, he has received the new Mantissa [Thunberg refers to the Mantissa plantarum altera, 2nd edLinnaeus, Carl Mantissa
plantarum altera
(1766), 2nd ed.
(Stockholm 1771). Soulsby no. 312.
], which he had long wished for. He has changed some of his former descriptions according to Linnaeus’s remarks, e.g in Fucus buccinalis, pyriferus and ornatusi, Schoenus ustulatus. Anthericum spirale is no doubt a Crinum; Helionas minuta must be a new genus, Stellina.

Linnaeus mentions Enonymus colpoon, locally called Lepelhout; it is illustrated by Johannes BurmanBurman, Johannes (1707-1779).
Dutch. Botanist, professor of medicine
in Amsterdam. Close friend of Linnaeus.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
in “Decades” [Thunberg refers to Burman’s Rariorum Africanarum plantarum, ad vivum delineatarum, iconibus ac descriptionibus illustratarum decas prima-[decima]Burman, Johannes Rariorum
Africanarum plantarum, ad vivum
delineatarum, iconibus ac
descriptionibus illustratarum decas
]. However, it has nothing in common with the Colpoon compressum, probably a Thesium, described by Peter Jonas BergiusBergius, Petter Jonas
(1730-1790). Swedish. Physician and
botanist. Professor of natural history
and pharmacy at Collegium Medicum,
Stockholm. Linnaeus’s student.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
[Thunberg refers to Bergius’s Descriptiones plantarum ex Capite bonae speiBergius, Petter Jonas
Descriptiones plantarum ex Capite
bonae spei, cum differentiis specificis,
nominibus trivialibus et synonymis
auctorum justis secundum systema sexuale
et autopsia concinnatae et sollicite
(Stockholm, 1767).
]. Thunberg will send this Thesium colpoon to Linnaeus, but he dares not to send something though the Dutch, as he is not sure it will arrive safely. Thunberg hopes Linnaeus has received the specimens sent via Paris and Mr Blad [Peter Johan BladBlad, Peter Johan (1746-1816).
Swedish. Supercargo of the Swedish East
India Company.
]. Thunberg has found Lichen rangiferinus on the top of the Table Mountain.

In the beginning of this month, a Dutch ship was wrecked on the shore; only fifty men could be saved. Thunberg is enclosing some herbs: Arabis trifida, Lobelia minima, Helonias viridis, Arabis capensis.

In September Thunberg will explore the interior. It is his intention to reach the 2000th specimen of Flora capensis [Thunberg is presumably referring to his planned work, to publish a new flora of the Cape, which he did, at first with the forerunner, Prodromus plantarum CapensiumThunberg, Carl Peter
Prodromus plantarum Capensium, quas,
in promontorio Bonae spei Africes, annis
1772-1775, collegit Carol. Pet.
, 2 vols. (Uppsala
, and almost ten years later, Flora Capensis, sistens plantas promontorii Bonae spei AfricesThunberg, Carl Peter Flora
Capensis, sistens plantas promontorii
Bonae spei Africes, secundum systema
sexuale emendatum redactas ad classes,
ordines, genera et species, cum
differentiis specificis, synonymis et
, 3 vols. (Uppsala
] to be delivered to Linnaeus next year.


a. original holograph (LS, XV, 277-278). [1] [2] [3]