History of the Linnéus trails

Linnaeus built up a system of eight ”excursions,” educational nature walks, around Uppsala, and called them Herbationes Upsalienses. ”Herbationes” comes from Latin and means botanical walks. Seven of the excursions started at the town boundaries and an eighth took place in the village of Jumkil. The excursions represented the last lectures of the spring term.

Perhaps Linnaeus’s greatest contribution to education was that he let his students discover nature on their own. He let the group disperse freely and then re-gathered them every half hour to go through what they had found from the three kingdoms, animal, vegetable, and mineral. This teaching method is an excellent way of awakening curiosity and a love of exploring.

Before each excursion, Linnaeus organised his group carefully and chose one student to keep notes, which were then copied by the others in the group. This was a way of rendering the teaching more effective; anyone who has taught in the field knows how much time is spent answering questions from those who didn’t hear what the teacher said.

Herbationes Upsalienses was a system whereby different types of nature could be studied all spring. In 1753 Linnaeus wrote a thesis that became a manifesto for Herbationes Upsalienses.

The Year of 1754

The year is 1754. A group of people are wandering out through Kungsängstull by the southern boundary of Uppsala city; gentleman from the University marching one after the other. One of them has notepaper and a quill pen; he is the record-keeper. Another is carrying a long copper can on his hip; this is a vasculum dillenianum, later to be known as just a ”vasculum”. A third is carrying the ”Clerck’s scissors”, a pair of crossed nets used to catch insects. A fourth is carrying a gun; he is a bird shooter. The fifth and last watches over the group carefully. He has been appointed as fiscal, or monitor. All told, there are about 30 of them. In front moving with quick steps, is their teacher, Professor Linnaeus; he may be rather short, but he carries authority in his stride.

Now, everyone is talking about the past, the 1740s, when spirits ran at their highest during the flower walks. In those days, they took a French horn and kettle drums with them into the field. The number of students could reach an incredible 200. Back then, everyone wore loose-fitting clothes, a functional field dress code. ”Man should adorn his clothes and not the other way around,” Linnaeus used to say. However, such an informal style of clothing caused offence and Linnaeus received a letter from the highest level, forbidding such things and calling them indecent. Nevertheless, the flower walks survived, albeit in calmer forms and with stricter dress.

Linnaeus on excursion with students

Illustration by Fibben Hald:
”The diligent and inquisitive natural researchers, found in abundance in Uppsala, thus perfect their botanical excursions; mostly in the month of June. Through these, they learn to know the rich treasures of their homeland, that they might one day use them to their own benefit and the good of society, and to the praise and glory of the Creator.”