Origin of the generic name Schlumbergera
by Peter Coxhead
The genus Schlumbergera, which includes the Thanksgiving or Christmas Cactus, was created by Charles Lemaire in 1858. He named it after someone he referred to in an article in the Revue horticole as M[onsieur] Schlumberger of Les Anthieux, who had previously had articles about cacti published in the same journal. M. Schlumberger is usually identified as Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893). Although the information in Revue horticole is not entirely consistent, there is good circumstantial evidence for this identification. Frédéric Schlumberger lived at what is now called the Château de la Haye des Authieux, in Les Authieux-sur-le-Port-Saint-Ouen, on the outskirts of Rouen in northern France.
Some sources instead identify M. Schlumberger as Frederick Schlumberger (1804–1865), said to be Belgian. These dates appears to be based on a mis-reading of two almost consecutive entries in A Gardener’s Handbook of Plant Names (Smith 1963).
Attribution of the genus name to Schlumberger
The genus Schlumbergera was created by Charles Lemaire in 1858. He published the name in two places in the same year, one in April in L’Illustration horticole (Lemaire 1858a), the other in Revue horticole (Lemaire 1858b). The former gives the more detailed account of the botanical features of the genus; the latter says “Voir pour détails botaniques, Illustr. hort., avril 1858.” (For botanical details see Illustr. hort., April 1858.) Only the latter publication explains the choice of name in detail:
Nous avons dèdié ce joli genre à un amateur distingué, dont les lecteurs de la Revue horticole n’ont point oublié les judicieuses et intéressantes communications sur les fleur des Cactées, M. Schlumberger, des Anthieux.
No further details about Schlumberger are given. As well as the 1858 volume of Revue horticole, digitized versions of some earlier volumes are available online. Searching these, a number of articles about cacti by Schlumberger can be found:
Thus the information is not entirely clear. The place name is either “Les Authieux” or “Les Anthieux”; the two references to the château are both to “Anthieux”. Schlumberger’s initial is either “P” (in the first two sources above) or “F” (in the last two). The differences involve pairs of letters easily misread in cursive handwriting, namely u and n, and P and F, which may be relevant.
Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893)
The person most usually identified as the Schlumberger intended by Lemaire is Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893), described by McMillan & Horobin (1995, p. 10) as “a member of the distinguished French family Schlumberger, one of whose members was well-known in the mid-nineteenth century for his collection of cacti at his château near Rouen.” His genealogy is given in a number of places, e.g. Geneanet.org a and Gen-gen.ch a (where his first name is given as Frédéric-Emile). He was born on 19 April 1823 and died on 18 February 1893, in Rouen on both occasions. His father was Emile Schlumberger, born in 1799 in Mulhouse in Alsace. Alsace was then French but historically shifted between France and Germany, explaining the Germanic origin of the surname. Emile is described as “Manufacturier à Rouen” (manufacturer at Rouen). It appears that Emile Schlumberger ran the calico manufacturing business created by his father-in-law Godefroy Rouff, who had only one child, his daughter Julie, who married Emile. After Emile’s death in 1838, his widow is said to have appealed to Alsatian chemists to run the factory (Geneanet.org b). This suggests that her son Frédéric was not much involved in the business and would have had time to pursue an interest in cacti.
Frédéric’s mother died in 1883 at “Château des Anthieux, 76, Seine Maritime, Port de St Ouen (Rouen)” (Gen-gen.ch b). The address corresponds to the commune now called Les Authieux-sur-le-Port-Saint-Ouen in the arrondissement of Rouen, département of Seine-Maritime. With a population of around 1,000, the commune is a small town or large village on the outskirts of the town of Rouen. One of the historic places in the commune is the Château de la Haye des Authieux, which “a appartenu tour à tour à la famille Saint-Yon, aux Schlumberger et aux Gallouen” (belonged in turn to the Saint-Yon family, the Schlumbergers and the Gallouens) (Seine76.fr). The mayor of the commune from 1925 to 1929 was Charles Schlumberger. Frédéric’s son Charles was born in 1861 and died in 1942, so would have been in his mid-60s at the time. Whether or not he was the mayor, the relationship between Les Authieux-sur-le-Port-Saint-Ouen and the Schlumberger family appears clear.
As a final twist, Lagenealogie.com gives “Les Anthieux” as an old name for the commune, so the variants present in the Revue horticole articles may be original and not type-setting errors.
Frederick Schlumberger (1804–1865)
Other sources say that Frederick Schlumberger (1804–1865) was the person intended by Lemaire. Coombes (1994) describes him as a Belgian horticulturalist, explorer and plant collector. This information is repeated in a number of web sources, sometimes with information which appears to relate to Frédéric Schlumberger (1823–1893), e.g. that he was French (Weihnachskaktus) or that he lived near Rouen (Kaktuszgyujtok.hu). No person with this name and dates of birth and death was found in a search of web-based genealogy sources in December 2011. The information appears to have been derived from a mis-reading of two almost consecutive entries in A Gardener’s Handbook of Plant Names (Smith 1963). These are:
Schlumbergera Cacti named for Frederick Schlumberger, Belgian horticulturalist, c. 1900.
It seems likely that the dates for Schomburgk have been transferred to Schlumberger. It’s not clear why Smith says that Schlumberger was Belgian, although L’Illustration horticole, which was one of the publications in which the genus appeared and which Lemaire edited, was published in Belgium.
Lemaire, C. (1858): Schlumbergera (Nouveau Genre de la Famille des Cactées.). – L’Illustration horticole 5: 24-25.
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Lemaire, C. (1858): Revue des plantes rare ou nouvelles. Schlumbergera – Nouveau genre des Cactées. – Revue horticole 10: 253.
Synonyms (in chronological order):
Zygocactus K. Schumann
Schumann, K. (1890): Zygocactus K. Sch. in Martius, Flora Brasiliensis 4(2): 223.
Epiphyllanthus A. Berger
Berger, A. (1905): A systematic revision of the genus Cereus Mill. – Rep. (Annual) Missouri Bot. Gard. 1905: 84-85.
Backeberg, C. (1938): Blätt für Kakteenforschung 1938(6): [17; 5, 11, 23].