Leonard Plukenet

The Queen's Botanist

Today is the anniversary of the death of Leonard Plukenet, who had served as the botanist to Queen Mary II.
When he died (like almost every plant-lover of his era), he left his collections and herbarium to Sir Hans Sloane, which is how his collections have become one of the oldest still existing at the Natural History Museum in England.
As the royal botanist, Plukenet was an important part of botanical society during the 1600s. Along with George London and William Sherard, Plukenet assisted the zealous botanical aspirations of Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort. Her next-door neighbor was Sir Hans Sloane. When she died, she, too, left her herbarium and other valuable botanical items to Sir Hans Sloane. This is how Hans Sloane became a one-man botanical repository, and that repository ultimately became the Natural History Museum.
Plukenet played an unforgettable role in the history of the sacred lotus. And in 2011, Corinne Hannah wrote an exceptional piece about Plukenet's name for the sacred lotus. Here's an excerpt from Corinne's marvelous article, which appeared in the Calgary Herald.

“[The] English botanist Leonard Plukenet christened the sacred lotus in 1696 as:
Nymphaea glandulifera indiae paludibus gardens foliis umbilicatis amplis pediculis spinosis flore rosea-pupureo,
or "the marsh-loving, nut-bearing Indian water lily with large, navel-centred leaves, prickly stalks and rose-purple flowers.
Thank heavens for Carl Linnaeus and his invention of binomial nomenclature, which decreed each plant could only be identified with two names!
But Linnaeus was not infallible. He too initially identified the sacred lotus as being closely related to the water lily family (Nymphaea). Recent genetic testing has confirmed that sacred lotus belongs to a genus unto itself, Nelumbo nucifera. This aquatic plant is not even remotely related to water lilies. In fact, it is far more closely allied to woody plants such as plane trees or banksias.“

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Leonard Plukenet
Leonard Plukenet

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