On occassion you come across an opportunity to combine a good story with the technical side of a subject. Such an opportunity presented itself recently and it allows me to weave the technical language botanists use into a fascinating story.
Today we revisit the story of Jeanne Baret, the herb woman and experienced field botanist who traveled on the Bougainville expedition (1766-1769) and who disguised herself as a man so she could join her boyfriend, expedition botanist Philibert Commerson. This historic journey made Jeanne (or “Jean” as she was known on board) the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
Together Baret and Commerson collected more than 6,000 specimens; seventy of these specimens were named after Commerson while none were named after Baret (Tepe et al., 2012). Fortunately, this oversight was corrected two years ago. The plant honoring Jeanne Baret and her accomplishments is described in A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany by Eric J. Tepe, Glynis Ridley and Lynn Bohs.
The naming of Solanum baretiae Tepe, sp nov. was completed as part of an ongoing worldwide project to revise the genus Solanum. In Tepe et al. (2012), you’ll find detailed taxonomic information about the plant, information about Jeanne Baret, pen and ink illustrations by Bobbi Angell, color photographs of
S. baretiae, and GPS location data identifying where living specimens were examined.
The article by Tepe et al. (2012) serves as an example of how botanical illustration and botany work together to describe the diversity of plant life on earth. It is a good classroom example of how new plant species are described by botanists. Teachers might be interested in pairing this article with the book, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley. Pairing the article with the book would help teachers link Baret’s life story to subjects related to plants, geography and history.
To learn more about Jeanne Baret, read my interview with Glynis Ridley.
This article by Eric J. Tepe, Glynis Ridley and Lynn Bohs is available for free online.
Tepe, EJ and Glynis Ridley, L. Bohs. 2012. A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys. 8: 37-47. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.8.2101
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