Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Looking into the flora of Dutch Brazil: botanical identifications of seventeenth century plant illustrations in the Libri picturati.

Abstract

The Libri Picturati includes a collection of plant illustrations from seventeenth century Dutch Brazil that is kept in the Jagiellonian library in Krakow since World War II. While many studies focused on the artistic details and history of these images, we identified the flora depicted. We used contemporary textual sources (e.g., Historia Naturalis Brasiliae), monographs and taxonomist' assessments. We checked origin, life form, domestication and conservation status and the plant parts that are represented. We identified 198 taxa, consisting mostly of wild, native rainforest trees and 35 introduced species. Fertile branches are the most represented, although some loose dry fruits and sterile material were also painted, which sheds light into the collection methods by naturalists in Dutch Brazil. Several species are no longer abundant or have become invasive due to anthropogenic influences since colonialism. Through this botanical iconography, we traced the first records of the sunflower and the Ethiopian pepper in Brazil, as well as the dispersion and assimilation of the flora encountered in the colony by Indigenous, African and European peoples. We emphasized the relevance of combining visual and textual sources when studying natural history collections and we highlighted how digitalization makes these artistic and scientific collections more accessible.