Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 20 of 20

 This series ends with Dr John Pearn’s summary below.

Enduring memorials

Scientific names of living things will be used as long as scientists find it useful to do so. Names change as taxonomists revise plant groupings and there is a proposal to dispense with scientific names, in favour of an alternative system called the PhyloCode.

In the past, the doctrine of signatures linked the forms of plants with their supposed therapeutic uses. But the world of binomial nomenclature (which Linnaeus introduced in 1753), allows for the most fitting memorials in medicine and botany. In the scientific names of Australian orchids, the lives of many doctors and botanists endure.

Though this series has been divided into 20 parts, it does not cover the whole of his original article which can be viewed here and downloaded as a pdf.

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 18 of 20

Colin Ledward (1903 – 1963)

A general medical practitioner of Cloncurry and Canungra (Queensland); the orchid that bears his name was collected from a single colony discovered in 1934 and is now almost certainly extinct.


Acianthus fornicatus (= Acianthus ledwardii)

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 19 of 20

Arthur George Harrold (1918 – 2012)

A navy surgeon who later worked as general medical practitioner, ecologist and conservationist in Noosa (Queensland), and graduate of the University of Cambridge; he formed the Noosa Parks Association in 1962 and helped establish the Cooloola National Park.


Habenaria harroldii

Named in recent years, so there is only general information on the genus, Habenaria

Australian Orchids & the Doctors They Commemorate Part 16 of 20

Hereward Leighton Kesteven (1881 – 1964)

A general medical practitioner, medical scientist, zoologist, pioneer of industrial medicine in Australia, and national medical director of the Allied Works Council during World War II.


Dendrobium kestevenii  is the name applied to the hybrid between D. speciosum subsp. speciosum and D. kingianum

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 15 of 20

Charles Stanford Sutton (1895 – 1950)

A Melbourne general medical practitioner and expert on subalpine flora.


Pterostylis suttonii  Name not found in the Australian Plant Name Index or International Plant Index
Prasophyllum suttonii or Mauve Leek Orchid

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 13 of 20

Thomas Lane Bancroft (1860 – 1933) son and Joseph Bancroft (1836 -1894)  father

Thomas Lane Bancroft is one of Australia’s greatest doctor-naturalists; he elucidated the life cycle of the lungfish, Neoceratodus forsteri

Orchid Species

Sarcochilus dilatatus (= Sacrcochilus bancroftii) Brown Butterfly Orchid

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commenorate Part 12 of 20

Herman Beckler (1828 – 1914)

A general medical practitioner in Ipswich and Warwick (Queensland) and, after 1862, in Germany; in 1860, he travelled with the Burke and Wills expedition as a doctor–botanist and expeditioner in Victoria and New South Wales.

Orchid Species:

Dockrillia schoenina (= Dendrobium beckleri) or common name Pencil Orchid

Papillilabium beckleri or common name Imp Orchid

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 11 of 20

Ferdinand Von Mueller (1825 – 1896)

A qualified pharmacist in Rostock (Germany) who emigrated to Australia in 1847 and wrote extensively on the medicinal properties of plants; he was a founder of Australian botany and published over 800 articles on botany.

Orchid species:

Habenaria ferdinandi image and location

Taeniophyllum muelleri

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 10 of 20

Charles Brightly Prentice (1820 – 1894)

A Brisbane surgeon, naturalist and botanical collector, a member of the Medical Board of Queensland, and an expert on Australian ferns.

Orchid Species:

Bulbophyllum prenticei

Synonyms: Dendrobium prenticei, Davejonesia prenticei

Australian Orchids and the Doctors they Commemorate Part 1 of 20

Back in 2013, Professor John H Pearn, Emeritus, School of Medicine, University of Queensland wrote a five page article about medical doctors who were Australian orchidologists.  This was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.  My intention is to post direct quote extracts from his article.

First …..

Thank you, John Pearn for giving permission to post

Now to begin …….., at the beginning….. of course …………

Orchidaceae is the largest family of flowering plants. Orchids grow in habitats ranging from subalpine niches to the tropics, and they produce some of the most beautiful, varied and intriguing flowers. Of the more than 1300 genera and 33 000 species, more than 1300 named taxa of orchids, in 193 genera, grow in Australia.

The word “orchid” is from the Greek word orchis  (meaning testicle), which reflects the appearance of the  root tubers in some species. According to the “doctrine of signatures” –  a 16th century herbalist philosophy  which states that herbs resembling body parts can be used to treat those body parts – orchids were used continuously from preliterate times as aphrodisiacs and as medicaments to restore virility. Theophrastus (c. 372–288 BC) wrote about the medicinal value of orchids, as did Paracelsus (1491–1541) and Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), the father of modern botanical taxonomy.  As a child, Linnaeus recorded details of his personally collected orchid specimens in his notebook, in which he wrote “Orchis from testiculus, through which its effects should occur”.

Orchid extracts such as vanilla (from Vanilla planifolia) and salep (from Orchis mascula and Orchis militaria) are used commercially in ice-cream, confectionery and medicinal flavouring agents. Crawley root preparations (from Corallorhiza odontorhiza) are used in folk medicine for their diaphoretic and antipyretic properties. In Australia, orchid preparations have been and continue to be used by Indigenous healers to treat diarrhoea and skin infections. Lieutenant (not yet Captain) James Cook used powdered orchid root as part of his method for preserving the health of his crew.

The physical manifestations of orchids, such as their flowers and the medicines and flavourings derived from them, are ephemeral. But the scientific names of orchids endure, and many perpetuate the lives and works of those who have contributed to medicine since the time of Aristotle. Here, I describe indigenous orchids of Australia whose scientific names commemorate doctors who worked in Australia, encapsulating a library of Australian medical history. These orchids comprise a monumentum aere perennius (monument more lasting than bronze) — a phrase coined by Horace in Book III of his Odes when referring to his own literary work.

To be continued ……………

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