Item of the Month: March 2017


Herbarium of Gustav Carl Girgensohn (1782–1872)
Selected pages from Folder I, 1849.


The secondary school teacher Gustav Carl Girgensohn was an amateur botanist whose interest in plants was kindled by the botany professor Alexander von Bunge during Girgensohn’s studies at Tartu. Girgensohn's favourite subject of study were mosses – his first survey of the mosses of Baltic provinces was published in 1855. It was probably Bunge who also introduced Girgensohn to Edmund Russow, who would later take over as Professor of Botany at the University. Girgensohn systematically gathered his collected mosses in herbaria and also assembled at least two exsiccata (i.e., collections of properly identified plants from a specific area presented together with essential data concerning the place where the plants had been found).

These pages are from his first exsiccatum that dates from 18491856 and comprises five folders, each of which contains 50 specimens. The collection served as the basis of the first catalogue of mosses from the provinces of Estonia, Livonia and Courland, published in 1860 in Tartu.

In 1860, Girgensohn described a new species of moss which he named Wulf's peatmoss (Sphagnum wulfianum Girg.) after the eponymous owner of the Tähtvere manor. In Girgensohn’s honour, von Bunge and Russow used his name to baptize, respectively, a genus of Central Asian vascular plants (Girgensohnia Bunge ex Fenzl.) and a peatmoss species (Sphagnum girgensohnii Russ.).

The project is curated by Inge Kukk
The project is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia