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Linné on line arrow Plants and Animals arrow To discover new species arrow A visit to the ”New York” in North America

A visit to the ”New York” in North America
Pehr Kalm (1716–1779)


Kalmia angustifolia
Photo: Mariette Manktelow
  ”As soon as I reached the window I saw their boat with a long pole in the front, from which a bloody head of a human was hanging”. This was how Pehr Kalm had to witness the American Indians revenge on the Englishmen in Canada in 1748. He was the pupil of Linnaeus who travelled to America.

Pehr Kalm grew up in Åbo in Finland, studied to become a clergyman and met Linnaeus when studying in Uppsala. Linnaeus sent him to North America to find utility plants that would tolerate the Swedish climate. Kalm visited the Swedish people in the ”New Sweden” in Delaware. He also visited the ”New York” and parts of Canada.

Everything Kalm saw was carefully recorded in his diary. After four years he returned home to Linnaeus with a large collection of pressed plants, seeds and living plants. Out of joy and gratitude Linnaeus named a beautiful pink-flowered shrub in the heather family, Ericaceae, after Kalm.

Kalm immediately started writing on his travel journal, but his accuracy made it too time consuming to finish. Only parts of his travel journal were published. He became a professor in Åbo after some time, but he longed back to America for the rest of his life.