history of the genus Gymnocalycium

The first cactus species which was classified as genus Gymnocalycium, appeared in Europe in the beginning of the 19th century. Haworth described this plant as Cactus Gibbosus in 1812 ((Gymnocalycium Gibbosum). In 1843, Pfeiffer introduced the genus Gymnocalycium in the Schelhase catalogue for the first time. Luis Karl Georg Pfeiffer (1805-1877) was active as doctor in Kassel to 1833.

The following species were known in the 19th century:
Echinocactus monvillei (1838)
Echinocactus centeterius (1838)
Echinocactus hyptiacanthus (1839)
Echinocactus leeanus (1845)
Echinocactus multiflorus (1845)
Echinocactus saglionis (1847)
Echinocactus ourselianus (1850)
Echinocactus schickendantzii (1896)
Echinocactus platensis (1896)
Echinocactus damsii (1898)
Echinocactus megalothelos (1898)
Echinocactus quehlianus (1899)

He spent two years (1838-1839) in Cuba for the studies of the Melokakteen. He wrote three books. Together with F. Otto (director of the botanic garden Berlin), he published "illustration and description of blossoming Cacteen" in two volumes. In this work appeard the Latin diagnosis of this new genus in 1845. The generic term derived from the Greek words Gymnom = naked, hairless and Calyx = goblet.

The generic term Gymnocalycium nevertheless didn't get recognized in the literature. Still the term Echinocactus was used.

The species diagnosises were often very incomplete. Details about home areas got consciously or unconsciously wrong (for example G. gibbosum Mexico, G. saglione Chile). Only Britton and Rose fetched the name Gymnocalycium from the sinking again in 1922. In their work "The Cactaceae" they respected 23 species. As the first in Europe the company Haage in Erfurt used the name Gymnocalycium in catalogues. Again it was the company Haage that did much for the distribution of new plants of the genus Gymnocalycium after the 1st world war.

Prof. Dr. Carlos Hosseus delivered many discoveries to Europe as e.g. Gymnoc. anderae, Gymnoc. bodenbenderianum, Gymnoc. capillaense, Gymnoc. hossei. Alberto Vojtech Fric (1882-1944) a well known collector from Prag did a lot of journeys into cactus areas. Many new Gymnocalycium, among them G. michoga 1928, G. nidulans 1929, G. guanchinense 1929 he brought to Europe. Fric recognized the different types of seeds by means of micro-photographs. He divided 33 species in 5 groups of seeds: Macroseminae, Ovatisemineae, Trichomoseminae, Microseminae and Muscoseminae. Little notice was taken of his suggestions.

Gymnocalycium saglionis
Gymnocalycium saglionis

The Chaco-war (1932-1935) allowed A.M. Friedrich - who was active as war correspondent - to visit former pathless areas. He found among other G. megatae and G. friedrichii. In the fifties and sixties more beautiful discoverys which didn't confine themselves to Argentina only (G. chiquitanum, G. eurypleurum, G. ritterianum etc.) were made. Dr. B. Schütz published 1968 - among retention of the names - the by Fric introduced seed structures in the magazine Friciana Rada according to the international rules of plant description. A further arrangement was published by Prof. Buxbaum in his paper "Krainz", in 1968. He divided the genus into 12 series, 3 of them subdivided in 2 subseries. South Brasil had the attention of the friends of Gymnocalycium on himself in the seventies. G. horstii was found among the field number HU79. Family J. Piltz found G. amboatense and G. piltziorum on their journeys. The last 15 years until today were dominated by the systematic investigation of the Gymno habitats. Especially the outstanding work of the Gymnocalycium specialists H. Till, G. Neuhuber, W. Papsch, F. Strigl and H. Amerhauser (and others) have to be mentioned here.

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