It takes a gifted artist to become a great teacher and those who dare to teach never cease to learn.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

2016 Arts and Archives: Reichenbach - The Orchid King

 Fraction of the herbarium collections at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Wien

One of the absolute highlights of our 2016 Arts and Archives tour was the visit to the Herbarium of the Natural History Museum in Vienna which was established in 1807. Its current holdings are approximately 5.5 million plant specimens. The herbarium is especially rich in type specimens (around 200,000). Unfortunately one sixth of the collection was destroyed during the Second World War, however the herbarium is today ranked among the top five botanical collections in the world.  We focused especially on the Reichenbach orchid collection which includes over 70,000 orchid documentations and was willed to the Natural History Museum by the German Botanist Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach in 1889. We got an impressive presentation of the vast collection by Armin who is part of Prof. Vitek's team at the herbarium. 
Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach was born in 1823 in Leipzig and died in 1889 in Hamburg. Even though orchids were his special interest from the age of 18 years, he also helped his father to describe and illustrate the plants of Central Europe (Icones Flora Germanica et Helvetica, 1850) in which Heinrich Gustav was responsible for over 1500 drawings. Xenia Orchidacea published in 1851 included about 900 drawings by H.G. Reichenbach. Reichenbach was the leading orchid expert of his time; he studied and classified a great number of orchids which were shipped to him especially from South America and Asia. His devotion to orchids was described as a manic obsession (only orchids can do this to you).
For more pictures from our visit, please click here.
Reichenbach's drawings and notes to the type specimen of Cypripedium superbiens = Paphiopedilum 

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