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Plant Trail Celebrates Botanist in Dunedin Botanic Garden

26 November 2007

Linnaean Anniversary Celebrated  in Dunedin, New Zealand

Interpretive signs forming a new thematic trail have recently appeared in the Dunedin Botanic Garden Native Plant collection. This trail was  developed to celebrate the achievements of the Swedish botanist, Daniel Solander who in 1768 was a naturalist on one of the first journeys to New Zealand by Europeans with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour. His main job on this occasion was to describe and catalogue the plants found during these travels. He also collected and described various animals.

Linnaean System Reaches New Zealand

Having studied under Carl Linnaeus in Uppsala, Solander adopted the Linnaean system that categorised

 The trail celebrates the life and times of Daniel Solander

plants according to the number of male and female sexual flower parts. This was more useful than other systems of the time that were based on, for example, the shape of petals or whether a plant was a tree or herb.  Solander also applied the binomial naming system developed and promoted by Linnaeus.  By acknowledging and celebrating Daniel Solander’s travels around New Zealand through the use of these interpretive panels, we are treated to an insight of the scientific thinking and political climate of the day - 300 years ago.

The idea of commemorating the 300th anniversary at Dunedin Botanic Garden came from the impending tercentenary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, 23 May 1707. Modern day disciples did not wish this occasion to pass without an appropriate acknowledgement. The Daniel Solander theme came from the newly formed Linnaeus_Solander 2007 Committee, who recognised a number of attributes in Solander including his hands-on scientific connection to New Zealand, being a star pupil of Linnaeus and at one stage even a potential son-in-law; this proved to be the ideal personality.

New Zealand Native Plants – Peculiar Beauties

Dunedin Botanic Garden’s New Zealand Native Plant Collection is on the top of a ridge where the beds are arranged taxonomically or according to growth habit or habitat. The adjacent Lovelock Bush, consisting of a managed native forest, offers beautiful bush walks.  

New Zealand’s native plants have an extremely high rate of endemism, 85%, thought to be a result of a long period of isolation from other land masses.  The only native land mammals are two species of bat. In the absence of any native herbivorous mammals many NZ plants are tender, palatable and vulnerable to introduced mammals.  Others are tough to cope with living in a mountainous country made up of many islands with exposed coastal margins.

Telling the Story 300 Years Later

Growing at Dunedin Botanic Garden are about 100 NZ native plants named by or for Solander.   This was narrowed down to a selection of 10 plants to form the basis of the trail. From this point each of the plants chosen was researched to confirm its status in the collection and to prepare material that could provide information to link to the interpretive themes of each panel. 

Local Dunedin botanists helped with checking drafts, and the Linnaeus-Solander 2007 Committee kept an eye every step and generously funded the project.

The Solander plant trail was opened by the Dunedin’s Mayor Mr Peter Chin on 26th August 2007 on a beautiful early spring day.

Article from Clare Fraser, Visitor Information Officer, Dunedin Botanic Garden

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