Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe

Karl (or "Carl") Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe (1803, in Hamburg – 14 October 1862) was a German-born physician and botanist who lived and worked in South Africa.[1] He was the first person to hold the position of government botanist and the first professor of botany at the South African College. His herbarium became the oldest surviving botanical collection in South Africa.[2]

Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe
Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Pappe00.jpg
Hamburg, Germany
Died1862 (aged 58–59)
Other namesCarl
Alma materUniversity of Leipzig
Spouse(s)Maria Bam Mastaer (or Mestaer) (m.1839)
Scientific career
InstitutionsSouth African College
ThesisEnumerationes plantarum phaenogamarum lipsiensium specimen (1827)


Pappe studied medicine and botany at the Leipzig University. He qualified in medicine in 1827 with a thesis on the flowering plants of Leipzig, "Enumerationes plantarum phaenogamarum lipsiensium specimen".[2]

Medical careerEdit

He travelled to Cape Town in January 1831 and was registered as a physician, surgeon and accoucheur (a male obstetrician). He joined the South African Medical Society in 1832 and was one of three doctors in charge of the temporary hospital in Cape Town during the measles epidemic of 1839. From 1855 to 1858 he served as physician to the European Sick and Burial Society and the Widows' Fund.[2]

Botanical careerEdit

Pappe started collecting plants around Cape Town from 1831 and this soon became his chief interest. He published "Systematische lijst van zoodanige Kaapse planten geslachten, als naar zulke natuurkundigen genoemd zijn die zich in de botanie vedienstelijk gemaakt hebben" (Systematic list of those Cape plants that have been named after naturalists who distinguished themselves in botany) in the Nederduitsch Zuid-Afrikaansch Tijdschrift (Dutch-German South African Magazine) in 1833.[2]

In 1847 Pappe submitted a paper, containing 60 plant remedies, to the Cape Town Medical Gazette, entitled "A list of South African indigenous plants used as remedies by the colonists" which was based on C.P. Thunberg's "Resa uti Europa, Africa, Asia, förrättad åren 1770–1779"(Travels in Europe, Africa and Asia Made Between the Years 1770–1779).[3] It was republished in 1847 as a pamphlet, "A list of South African indigenous plants, used as remedies by colonists of the Cape of Good Hope". This became the basis for Pappe's "Florae Capensis medicae prodromus: or, an enumeration of South African indigenous plants, used as remedies by the colonists of the cape of Good Hope" in 1850, which was to accompany a collection of Cape medication sent to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.[2]

Pappe collaborated with the colonial secretary, Rawson W. Rawson in a study of 160 species of South African ferns which was published as "Synopsis filicum Africae Australis; or, an enumeration of the South African ferns" in the Cape Monthly Magazine (1957). In August 1858, Rawson appointed Pappe as government botanist, a position that Pappe had proposed.[2]

Pappe became the first professor of botany at the South African College later in 1858. This was an unpaid position, although Pappe did receive some student fees. Pappe started lecturing in April 1959 with introductory botany, the Linnaean taxonomy of plants, and plant physiology. [2]

Many of the plants Pappe collected on several trips to the Eastern Cape and Namaqualand were sent to his friend W.H. Harvey in Dublin. Pappe expanded his personal herbarium with the purchase of C.L.P. Zeyher's collection. After his death the herbarium was sold to the government and became the Cape Government Herbarium and in 1956 was transferred to the Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on permanent loan.[2]

In 1854 Pappe published "Sylva Capensis; or, a description of South African forest-trees and arborescent shrubs" which was a commentary on the 77 specimens sent to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855. In 1859 he advised the United States government on indigenous plants of economic value while advising the Madras government of the value of Indian millet. Pappe also wrote about the dangers of deforestation and suggested conservation measures.[2]

The Cape Town botanical gardenEdit

Pappe was in favour of the establishment of a proper botanical garden in Cape Town. To this end, in 1845 he wrote several letters to the editor of The South African Commercial Advertiser describing the history of the Cape garden established by the Dutch East India Company. When subscriptions to finance the garden were started in May 1848, Pappe subscribed £2 per annum. Harry Smith, governor of the Cape appointed Pappe to a commission to supervise the development of the botanic garden. In 1949, Pappe assisted in acquiring trees and shrubs from Baron von Ludwig's estate for the garden, as Pappe had been acquainted with him prior to von Ludwig's death in 1847. Pappe also collected plants from South Africa for the garden and obtained others from overseas. In 1850, he resigned from the commission in protest when C.L.P. Zeyher, the gardener, was dismissed.[2]

Zoological interestsEdit

In 1853, Pappe published "Synopsis of the edible fishes at the Cape of Good Hope" in which 45 species were described. The work was inspired by Andrew Smith's "Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa (1838–50)".[2]

In 1855, he presented many specimens of Coleoptera and Hymenoptera to the South African Museum.[2]


The genus of small African trees Pappea (Family Sapindaceae) was named after him by C.F. Ecklon and Zeyher. He was also commemorated in the species of legume, Lessertia pappeana and the fern, Asplenium pappei.[2]

As a taxonomist he described the genus Atherstonea Pappe (synonym Strychnos, family Loganiaceae).[4]

Selected botanical worksEdit

  • Florae capensis medicae prodromus, or, An enumeration of South African indigenous plants : used as remedies by the colonists of the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town: W. Brittain. 1857.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Silva capensis; or, A description of South African forest-trees and arborescent shrubs used for technical and oeconomical purposes by the colonists of the Cape of Good Hope. London: Ward and Co. 1862.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Synopsis Filicum Africae australis; or, an enumeration of the South African ferns hitherto known. Cape Town: Saul Solomon. 1858.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Personal lifeEdit

Pappe married Maria Bam Mastaer (or Mestaer) in 1839 and they had five children. Pappe collected an extensive personal library and more than 1300 books were auctioned off after his death.


  1. ^ Gunn, Mary; Codd, L. E. W. (1981). Botanical Exploration Southern Africa. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-86961-129-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Biography of Pappe, Dr Carl Wilhelm Ludwig (botany, ichthyology, insect collection) at the S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science
  3. ^ Thunberg, Carl Peter (1788). Resa uti Europa, Africa, Asia, förrättad åren 1770-1779 (in Swedish). Upsala: Joh. Edman.
  4. ^ "Atherstonea Pappe". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  5. ^ IPNI.  Pappe.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit