By Lyman B. Smith

In tracking down the origin of names of bromeliad genera it does not take long to find out that Linnaeus named Tillandsia after Elias Tillands, a professor at Abo in Finland. There most references stop, but look at page 42 of an old volume with this awesome heading: Lachesis Lapponica or a Tour in Lapland, now first published from the original manuscript journal of the celebrated Linnaeus; by James Edward Smith, M. D., F. R. S. etc. President of the Linnaean Society. 1811.

It reads as follows: "The greater part of my way lay near the sea shore, which was bespread with the wrecks of vessels. How many prayers, sighs and tears, vows and lamentations, all alas in vain! arose to my imagination at this melancholy spectacle. It brought to my mind the student *, who in going by sea from Stockholm to Abo had experienced so severely the terrors of the deep, that he rather chose to walk back to Stockholm through East Bothnia, Tornea, West Bothnia, &c., than trust himself again to so cruel and treacherous a deity as Neptune.

*This was Tillands, afterwards Professor at Abo, who hence assumed this surname, expressive of his attachment to land, and Linnaeus named in honour of him a plant which cannot bear wet. See his Ord. Nat. 291.

The Ord. Nat. reference proves to be a paragraph in Latin giving the more definite information that Tillands chose two hundred miles by land rather than eight by sea. Linnaeus had his little joke on his seasick friend but he showed himself a poor observer, for he should have noticed that the scales of Tillandsia function like blotting paper and not like shingles as he evidently imagined.

[Taken from Journal of the Bromeliad Society - Volume 1, Number 4]

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