Tuesday, November 8, 2011

De historia stirpium: Carlina acaulis

What Leonhart Fuchs called "Chamaeleon albus" in this 1542 woodcut after a painting by Albrecht Meyer for De historia stirpium commentarii insignes (Notable commentaries on the history of plants) is a thistle which is now known as Carlina acaulis.

A few facts about Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566)
1. He was born in Bavaria.
2. Fuchs trained as a physician in Erfurt, the city closest to the geographical center of modern Germany.
3. Beginning in 1526, Fuchs taught medicine, first in Ingolstadt in Bavaria and then from 1533 at the University of Tübingen. He oversaw the making of the university's first garden of medicinal plants.
4. As Denise DeLaurentis points out in her excellent The Art of the Garden: Collecting Antique Botanical Prints (2006), shading does not appear in botanical illustrations for De historia stirpium. These were intended for use in identifying plants for medicinal purposes; thus, clarity was of utmost importance.

A few facts about Carlina acaulis
1. Its common name is silver thistle.
2. The plant is native to mountain regions of central and southern Europe.
3. Essential oils from the plant's rhizomes were used in herbal medicine.
4. The plant can be found on front doors among the Basques, who see it as a sign of good fortune.

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