Monday, May 11, 2015

Thale Cress (Arabidopsis thaliana)

Thale Cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), Middleleaze 7th April 2015

Named after Johannes Thal (1542–83), German physician and botanist. His Sylva Hercynia (written 1577, published 1588) is the first flora to attempt coverage of all the plants in a region, not just the ones with known medicinal properties. (It was, for example, the first to describe this charming and ubiquitous plant.)

Hercynia, in this case, meant the Harz mountains of N. Germany. *

Thal was severely injured in a horse and cart accident while on his way to visit a patient, and died a month or two later, aged only 41.

* It's possible that the MHG word "Harz" (mountain-forest) is somehow derived from the word Hercynia. Classically, the Hercynian forest (as described by Caesar, Tacitus, etc) covered a much wider area: a vast band extending eastward from the Rhine and running right across Germany, Bohemia, Romania... The Harz, like the Black Forest, is a relict.

Not to be confused with Hyrcania, classical name for a region of Iran immediately south of the Caspian (formerly Hyrcanian) Sea. In later writers (such as Shakespeare), the name usually crops up as a haunt of tigers. Probably Virgil was the key reason for this widely-dispersed meme, when he has Dido accuse Aeneas , "Hyrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres" (Hyrcanian tigers nursed you). Tigers became extinct in this region in the 1970s.



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