Linnaeus´ description of the sexual system that he proposed was included in Systema Naturae, which was published in 1735. The sexual system describes the classification of plants in a new manner. Systema Naturae also describes the animal kingdom and the mineral kingdom.
Linnaeus proposed the system after examining the sexual structure of flowers: he counted the stamens and examined the relative placement of the stamens and pistils. This enabled him to create a system of 24 classes, and he believed that all plants in the world could be classified with this system. There were many people contemporary with Linnaeus who did not appreciate that plants also reproduced sexually. In order to illustrate this, Linnaeus decided to describe the 24 classes as different arrangements of men and women in marriage. In some places he used the bridal chamber as a metaphor for pollination.
“A Passion for Systems - Linnaeus and the Dream of Order in Nature" is the title of a book and an exhibition that describe the material that made Linnaeus famous in the 17th century. The exhibition focuses on the sexual system. The book is based on the way in which the relationships between plants were described during the 18th century. The author of the book´s text, Nils Uddenberg, also describes criticism of the system and developments in the field from Linnaeus´ time until the present day.
Helene Schmitz is a photographer based in Stockholm . She has given several notable exhibitions in Sweden and in other countries. Her most noted works include "Livingrooms" from 1996. She published her first book, "blow up", in 2003, and this book was subsequently nominated for the August Prize in Literature in 2003.
The book "blow up" presents Schmitz´ studies of plants in extreme close-up. While working with the book, she studied Linnaeus´ work with plants, and was amazed by his obsession with creating a system for all life on Earth. Reading his descriptions of the sexual system stimulated her interest in his way of describing for his contemporaries the sexuality of plants using metaphors. Schmitz unsuccessfully sought for a work published from the 18th century until the present that describes the sexual system in drawings or photographs. This gave her the idea of conducting a project that would illustrate photographically how Linnaeus reasoned when creating the system. Each one of the 24 classes is represented by one plant in the exhibition.
All information on this web site is from the Linnaeus Tercentenary year of 2007 and has not been updated since. If using texts from this web site, please refer to Linnaeus2007 as the source.