Gunnar Marklund (1892-1964)

Dr. Gunnar Marklund served 1941-1959 as the Head Curator of the Botanical Museum of the University of Helsinki (Finland). He was an eminent taxonomist of the 1900's, with the main interest in apomictic plant groups.
    As with many other notable scientists, the talents of Marklund were obvious already at the age of schoolboy. However, at first he was to work as a school teacher of biology and geography for about two decades. Such a career, at least at the beginning, was usual in those times with people who already were or were to become competent botanists and zoologists. During that time he wrote a popular school-book on biology.
    Fortunately he had energy enough to proceed with scientific work besides the teaching duties. He became Ph. D. in 1936. During spring and early summer he actively collected and studied the genus Taraxacum which mostly comprises apomictic species. These studied resulted in two major publications, treating the species of Estonia or southernmost Finland, respectively.
    Following the nomination as the Head Curator of the Botanical Museum Dr. Marklund was able to devote himself to taxonomic and collecting work. He was interested in many groups of vascular plants, and published contributions on e.g. Epilobium, Mentha, Odontites and Potentilla. However, the most important of his contributions are those treating the Ranunculus auricomus group. Like the taraxacums, these plants flower in springtime and reproduce apomictically. He collected an enormous material of Ranunculus in his trips. This work resulted in two major contributions published in the 1960's, the latter of them posthumously. The numerous taxa (then as 'apomictic subspecies', now treated as apomictic species) in these papers were almost invariably new to science and described by him.
    Dr. Marklund was known as a diligent collector of very carefully prepared plant specimens. He also worked hard in the herbarium. He was the last head (or anybody of the staff) of the museum who had time and, above all, the capacity ('the eye of taxonomist') to check and rename, if needed, all the vascular plant accessions from Finland. As a schoolboy Harri Harmaja, e.g., was lucky enough to get that experience: a few days after you had left a critical plant for identification, you got back your specimen provided with a determination label with the correct name written in his regular handwriting.
    Dr. Harmaja has personal memories of Dr. Marklund only after the retirement of the latter. When a schoolboy and fresh student in the early 1960's he sometimes visited Marklund's work room at the building of the Botanical Museum with plants to be identified. Kindly enough, besides naming the specimens, Dr. Marklund had time to teach how to know the apomictic taxa of the Ranunculus auricomus group and Taraxacum, the varieties of Mentha gentilis, or Epilobium glandulosum s. auct. (= E. fransiscanum?) which he freshly had reported as new to Finland. Some collections of Harmaja were cited in his last papers dealing with these plants. The collections of Harmaja also included at least one new taxon of the R. auricomus group but Dr. Marklund had not time left to treat them further.
    The character of Gunnar Marklund has been described with the adjectives kind, polite and modest. Harmaja can confirm this: such was indeed his attitude also towards a rookie botanist.

The main works of Gunnar Marklund:

Die Taraxacum-Flora Estlands. Acta Bot. Fennica 23: 1-150. 1938.
Die Taraxacum-Flora Nylands.
Acta Bot. Fennica 26: 1-187. 1940.
Der Ranunculus auricomus -Komplex in Finnland. I.
Flora Fennica 3: 1-128, Taf. 1-94. 1961.
Der Ranunculus auricomus -Komplex in Finnland. II.
Flora Fennica 4: 1-198 (Taf. 1-94). 1965.

Created December 19, 2000. Latest revision November 17, 2007.