Carl Peter Thunberg’s Secret to Botanizing in Japan

Here’s a charming story I ran across about Carl Peter Thunberg's time in Japan.

During his visit, Carl was confined to a small artificial island in Nagasaki harbor. Ever the clever end-rounder, Carl came up with a strategy to obtain botanical samples.

Carl bought a goat. Then, he asked his Japanese assistants to collect plants to feed the goats.

Carl knew that goats are picky eaters, and it was through the plant material collected for the goats that Carl ended up receiving five different hydrangea species previously unknown to the West. These hydrangeas would have been the lace caps – the ones that produce the beautiful UFO ring of blooms around the flowerhead of small florets, and Japan was very private about them. Can you imagine his excitement?

The entire time Carl was away, which amounted to an incredible nine-year journey from his native Sweden, Carl sent plants and letters to Linnaeus, who in turn said that he had never had "more delight and comfort from any other botanist."

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Carl Peter Thunberg
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