Collecting localities



Biographical data


Thunberg, Carolus Petrus (or Carl Pehr)


(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 1: Cyclopaedia of collectors)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 1: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Addenda & Corrigenda)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 5: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement I)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 8: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement II)


Born: 1743, Jönköping, Sweden.

Died: 1828, Tunaberg near Uppsala, Sweden (his year of death sometimes erroneously stated as 1822).



Physician-botanist, a pupil of Linnaeus. After a visit to Holland some wealthy Dutch merchants offered him to make an exploration tour to the East Indies and Japan at their expense, in order to bring back living plants and seeds, suited for the climate in Holland, on behalf of the Hortus Medicus and the country-seats of its patrons. After a sojourn at the Cape of Good Hope, from where he travelled over a large part of South Africa (1772-75), he sailed for Batavia and there joined the Dutch embassy to the Imperial Court at Tokio (Japan).1 On the voyage home he passed half a year in Java, and seven months in Ceylon, before returning to Europe. He subsequently declined the offer of a Dutch professorate and went to England to study Banks’s collections. In April 1779 he returned to Stockholm, and became Ordinary Professor at Uppsala in 1784, as successor to Linnaeus.

He is the author of several botanical papers.2

He had a large correspondence with Linné in the years 1771-74.5 L.’s letters often contained special requests to look for certain plants in S. Africa. His correspondence with Prof. Bergius dated from 1726.

Not a successor to Linné as Professor at Uppsala, but to Linné f.

He is commemorated in the genus Thunbergia Retz. and in several plant species.


Collecting localities:1

March 2, 1775, sailing from the Cape of Good Hope to W. Java: Batavia (staying May 18-June 19); sailing (June 20) for Japan, in which country he stayed from Aug. 1775-Nov. 1776, making a journey from March 4-June 30; back in W. Java: Batavia (Jan. 4, 1777), collecting in the environs; by boat (March 23) to Centr. Java: Semarang (arriving Apr. 9); mountainous country in the hinterland; Ounarang (= Oengaran) (Apr. 23), Salatiga (24), Kopeng (26), Salatiga (27); back at Semarang (May 1-13); by boat to (D)Japara (14); W. Java: back at Batavia (June 1); Tandjong (19); Buitenzorg (20), Tjisaroea (22), Tjipanas, Pondok Gedeh (24), Megamendoeng, Buitenzorg (25), bird-cave (Tcheraton) (26); back at Batavia (28); Jacatra. In July 1777 he met the Swedish East-Indiaman ‘Stockholms Slott’ with Alnoor, Bladh (see those), etc. in Sunda Straits.7 Sailing (July 5) for Ceylon, in which island staying till Febr. 1778.

From sheets in his herbarium it appears that he collected in Java also at Noka Nanta (place unknown to author), and ‘grope blauwe berg in montibus’. The Strobilanthes hirta (inserted under Ruellia), collected in the latter locality, proves without doubt that he also collected in the mountains.



Herb. Uppsala [UPS], to which he presented his collections, including plants from other collectors, in 1785.3 Both in Herb. Leiden [L] and Herb. Amsterdam [AMD] plants from Japan, possibly from Java too. M. Houttuyn (see there) was presented with a Java collection cf. ‘Handleiding t.d. plant- en kruidkunde’ New ed. 1773, and the catalogue cited sub Houttuyn), so it seems probably that those are at Leiden [L]. Other dupl. in: Herb. State Mus. Stockholm [S] (with Herb. Alströmer, Montin, etc.): > 2000; with Herb. Bergius in Herb. Acad. Sci. Stockholm [SBT]; Herb. Linn. Soc. Lond. [LINN] (plants marked ‘T’ with number referring to some MS. Catalogue; Herb. Deless. (Geneva [G]), Herb. Brit. Mus. (ex Herb. Pallas and Banks) [BM], Herb. Berlin [B] (ex Herb. Willdenow), Herb. Lindemann (U.S.S.R.) [LECB] 15 nos, Herb. Vienna [W], Herb. Bot. Gard. St Petersb. (= Leningrad [LE]) (with Herb. Ledebour), Herb. Acad. Sci. Leningrad [LE] (pres. 1811), Herb. Univ. Kiel [KIEL] (from Java), Herb. Melbourne [MEL] (with Herb. Lehmann, many authentic specimens), Herb. Univ. Moscow [MW] (from the Cape and New Holland; in the latter country T. certainly not collected himself!); Herb. Montpellier (Cape and Japan) [MPU]. Also specimens in Florence (with Herb. Webb) [FI], in Copenhagen (probably with Herb. Vahl) [C], with Herb. Retzius in Lund (several) [LD], and with Herb. BÄCK in Uppsala [LINN]. He sent plants to Burman in Amsterdam before 1775, but complained that with the latter the material (partly in alcohol) lay ‘in obscuro’.8

During his stay in Java he was assisted by a native collector who was put at his disposal by courtesy of J.C.M. Radermacher (see there); his Java collection gave rise to the publication of a flora of Java.4

A list of papers in which plants of his are described can be found in the publication of Juel,3 p. 37-40.

Probably his early collections (S. Africa) were sent to Linné in the first place, but a Cape collection was also bought by the Swedish Academy9.



(1) C.P. Thunberg: ‘Resa uti Europa, Afrika, Asia förättad Aren 1770-1779’ (Upsala 1788-93, 4 vols). This diary was translated into English: ‘Travels in Europe, Africa and Asia, etc.’ (London 1794-95, 4 vols); into German: ‘Reise durch einen Theil von Europa, etc.’ (Berlin 1792-94, 2 vols) and abridged as ‘Reisen in Afrika and Asien, etc.’ (Berlin 1792); into French: ‘Voyage en Afrique et en Asie etc.’ (Paris 1794) and ‘Voyage au Japon etc.’ (Paris 1796, 4 vols).

(2) E.g. ‘Nova genera plantarum’ (Upsala 1781-1801); ‘Flora Japonica’ (Lipsiae 1784, t. 1-39); ‘Icones plantarum japonicarum’ (Upsala 1794-1802, 5 vols).

For the numerous other papers of him and his pupils cf. list of literature in the publication of H.O. Juel (see below) p. 24-36.

(3) H.O. Juel: ‘Plantae Thunbergianae. Ein Verzeichnis der von C.P. Thunberg in Südafrika, Indian and Japan gesammelten and der in semen Schriften beschriebenen oder erwähnten Pflanzen, sowie von den Exemplaren derselben, die im Herbarium Thunbergianum in Upsala aufbewahrt sind’ (Upsala 1918, p. 1-462).

(4) C.P. Thunberg (L. Winberg & Fr.Ol. Widmark): ‘Florula javanica’ (Thesis, Upsala 1825, pt 1-2, 23 pp.).

C.A. Backer, R.C. Bakhuizen van den Brink Jr. & C.G.G.J. van Steenis: ‘Identification of the new species and combinations proposed by C.P. Thunberg in the Florula Javanica by L. Winberg & F.O. Widmark (1825)’ (Blumea vol. 6, 1950, p. 358-362).

(5) Letters from Linné to Thunberg in Brefsamling vol. 19 in R. Swed. Ac. Sc., Stockholm.

(6) Letters from Thunberg to Bergius in R. Swed. Ac. Sc., Stockholm.

(7) See letter to Bergius, dated Ceylon, Oct. 7, 1777.

(8) See letter to Bergius dated Batavia, June 15, 1775, in which he mentions also the rumour of Linné’s death.

(9) It is evident from letters from Ekeberg to Bergius (in R. Swed. Ac. Sc.) that 100 ‘rixdollars’ were paid for it.


biographical data:

 Svenska Vet. Acad. Handl. 1828, p. 242-267; Flora 122, 1829, Erg. Bl. p. 89-106; Wikström, Conspect. Litt. Bot. Suec., 1831, p. 260-269, 332, 340; Nov. Act. Soc. Sci. Upsala 2, 1832, p. 409-422, w. part. bibliogr.; Pritzel, Thes. Lit. Bot., 1872; Bot. Tidskr. Kjøbenh. 12, 1880/81, p. 81-82, incl. part. bibliogr.; Rev. Hort. Belge 19, 1893, p. 197; Trimen, Handb. Flor. Ceylon, pt 5, 1900, p. 373; Wittrock, Icon. Bot. Berg., 1903, p. 73-74, and l.c. 2, 1905, p. 55, t. 33; portr. in J. Döfler, Botanikerporträts (Wien 1907) no 39; Journ. Linn. Soc. Bot. 45, 1920, p. 43-45; J.H. Verduyn de Boer, Botanists at the Cape 1, 1929, p. 34-40 + 2 portr.; Act. Phytotax. Geobot. 2, 1933, portr. facing p. 226; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936; Mia C. Karsten: ‘Carl. Peter Thunberg. An early investigator of Cape Botany’ I-V (Journ. S. Afric. Bot. 5, 1939, p. 1-27, 87-104, 105-155, w. plts incl. portr. & facsim.; l.c. 12, 1946, p. 127-163, 165-190, pl. 4-5); Svensk. Linné-Sällskap. Årsskr. 27, 1944, p. 29-64, fig. 1-7; specimen of handwriting in Sp. Savage, A catalogue of the Linnean Herbarium, London 1945, fig. 20; ‘Forskningsmaterial rörande C.P. Thunberg’ (and with Japanese title) Tokyo 1953.