Today is the birthday of the French priest and botanist Charles Plumier. He was born in Marseille.
Regarded as one of the most important botanical explorers of his time, Plumier served as a botanist to King Louis XIV of France, and he traveled many times to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.
During his third expedition to the Greater Antilles, Plumier discovered the Fuchsia triphylla on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and he named the fuchsia plant after the 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. Sometimes Charles Plumier is referred to as the Father of the Fuchsia.
Also known as ladies eardrops, the Fuchsia has colorful upside-down blossoms that hang from the stems. That drooping habit is reflected in the Irish name for Fuchsia - Deora Dé - meaning God's Tears.
The fruit of all the species of Fuchsia is edible. Although many Fuschia fruits are bland and have a bad aftertaste, the Fuschia variety splendens has flavorful fruit and can be used to make jam.
In addition to the Fuchsia, Plumier discovered and named both the Begonia and the Magnolia. Plumier named the Begonia after Michel Begon, who was the governor of the French Antilles for three years from 1682 to 1685. In fact, it was Begon who recommended Plumier for the position of plant collector in the Caribbean to King Louis XIV. Plumier named the Magnolia for the botanist Pierre Magnol - Magnol introduced the concept of plant families.
The plant names Fuschia, Begonia, and Magnolia first appeared in Plumier's 1703 book called Nova Plantarum Americanarum Genera.
Plumier drew the plants and animals that he discovered, and his drawings were quite good. In fact, Plumier's illustrations of fish were featured in a book by Professor Ted Pietsch called Charles Plumier and His Drawings of French Caribbean Fishes. And, Carl Linnaeus used Plumier's work to make a wallpaper for his home.
Today, Plumier is remembered by the genus Plumeria. A tropical, the Plumeria grows in shrubs & trees. Plumeria is sometimes called by the common name frangipani. This is because an Italian Marquis named Frangipani used Plumeria blossoms to create a perfume that was used to scent gloves during the 16th century.
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