De Fructibus et Seminibus Plantarum

De Fructibus et Seminibus Plantarum is a three-volume botanic treatise by Joseph Gaertner. The first volume was published in December 1788. The second volume was published in four parts, in 1790, 1791, 1791 and 1792 respectively. A third volume was published after Gaertner’s death by his son Karl Friedrich von Gaertner from 1805 to 1807. Most of the illustrations for the work were done by Johann Georg Sturm (1742-1793).

De Fructibus was based on specimens of over a thousand genera, including Australian and Pacific specimens from the collection of Sir Joseph Banks, and South African specimens from the collection of Carl Peter Thunberg. It was essentially a study of fruits and seeds, but the resultant classification was outstanding for its time. It was one of the first attempts to show that the terminology developed by Carl Linnaeus  had morphological underpinnings – at a time when Linnaeus’s work was still being questioned. Julius Sachs claimed that the work “forms an epoch in the history of botany”, writing: “[Gaertner]’s great work was at once an inexhaustible mine of single well-ascertained facts, and a guide to the morphology of the organs of fructification and to its application to systematic botany…. [T]he whole theory of the flower was thus placed upon a better basis…. Gärtner’s theory of the seed is one of his most valuable contributions to the science…. [H]is views far surpass in clearness and consistency all that had hitherto been taught on the subject.” It was one of the most popular science books of its day.