Gustaf Oskar Andersson Malme|
Department of Phanerogamic Botany
Swedish Museum of Natural History (S)
Gustaf Oskar Andersson Malme (Andersson until 1891) was born in the parish of Stora Malm in the county of Södermanland, Sweden, 24th October 1864. He was son of the crofter Anders Jonsson. In 1885 he left Norrköpings högre läroverk and continued his studies at Uppsala University. He passed his Bachelor degree in 1888 and became Phil. Dr. in 1892. He worked at the Museum of Natural History at a number of occasions. The first post Malme held was the Regnellian Amanuensis, 1895-1901. In 1904-1905 he was substitute Curator of Botany. From 1905 to 1911 he was lecturer in biology and chemistry at Högre latinläroverket, Norrmalm in Stockholm, thereafter lecturer in zoology and biology at a Stockholm teacher training collage from 1911 until he retired in 1930. After his retirement Malme again became the Regnellian Amanuensis until 5th Mars 1937, when he died suddenly at the age of sixty-two.
Together with Carl A. M. Lindman, Gustaf Malme was the first to receive the travel grant founded by A. F. Regnell (1807-1884). Regnells thought, according to a document from 1872 stating the conditions for his donation , was that the scholar was to collect plants in "Brazil, or another inter-tropical country" during a period of two years. During the years 1892-1894, Malme and Lindman undertook a Regnellian expedition to Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul and Matto Grosso) and the central parts of Paraguay. It is said that the two botanists did not get on so well, but the result of the journey was successful, with more than 5000 specimens collected.
Malme carried out his next botanical research expedition, as a Regnellian scholar, on his own in 1901-1903. This time he went to Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul and Matto Grosso) and Argentina (Aconcagua, Mendoza) with a short stay in Paraguay. Malme's original travel plans, was to start off with a couple of months in Rio Grande do Sul in order to complete some surveys made on the previous journey. After that he planned to leave for Aconcagua in the Argentinean Andes and then carry on to the Brazilian state of Matto Grosso. The stay in Rio Grande do Sul turned out to last for almost six months. To travel to Aconcagua, located on the border between Argentina and Chile, appeared to be far too risky since an outbreak of war was threatening following several years of territorial disputes between the two countries. Matto Grosso was out of question too because the region was blighted by civil war.
Malme used the unexpected stay in Rio Grande do Sul to make excursions to Cachoeira and Cruz Alta. Due to an outbreak of a plague ha had to spend five days in a quarantine in Isla de Flores (Uruguay) on his way back to Buenos Aires. This resulted in Malme missing the steam boat to Matto Grosso, and information about the next departure was not available. Instead he then set off on a steam boat to Paraguay in order to ascertain the possibilities of travelling on a cargo steamer to Corumbá in Matto Grosso. In the event, this proved to be possible. In his account of the journey published in Vetenskapsakademiens Årsbok 1904, Malme writes the following about the stay in Paraguay:
" I had no reason to regret the short stay in Paraguay. By Professor Dr. J. D. Anisits, who I already knew from my previous journey, I was cordially received, and on behalf of the Riksmuseum I received a considerable collection of phanerogams from the very little examined north-west part of Paraguay."
In Cuíaba in Matto Grosso Malme established that the civil war had left its tragic imprint. To carry on he needed a working-animal to carry his luggage, but they were difficult to get hold of since many had been killed or stolen during the war. Finally he was able to set off for Santa Anna da Chapada, 100 km from Cuíaba. In Santa Anna da Chapada he gratefully accepted an offer made by the village priest to stay in a room in the church, since
"...most houses were in decay and hardly liveable or at least extremely unsuitable for someone who incessantly needs to protect his collections from the damp. "
Malme describes the surroundings of Santa Anna as "an inexhaustible field for a botanist". His collections grew so rapidly that already a month after his arrival he had to return to Cuíabá to sort and pack the specimens. After an additional month in Santa Anna Malme had planned to travel on to Buenos Aires to carry out the delayed excursions to the Andes to study the alpine flora. But yet again he was delayed. This time low water levels in the Paraguayan river system combined with a new outbreak of a plague caused a long break in Cuíaba. After some time, the conditions allowed him to go to Aconcagua at c. 3000 metres above sea level. The vegetation there was very poor though, with only fifty or so phanerogams known from the area. Malme's collections were enriched with 130 specimens of which only one was a fern. Altogether Malme collected c. 2600 specimens during the whole South American expedition.
Thanks to his journeys to South America and his lifelong work in the Regnellian herbarium, Malme became an eminent expert on the flora of South America. In the Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademiens Handlingar alone Malme published more than a hundred articles. He mainly specialised in the plant families Asclepiadaceae, Xyridaceae and Asteraceae, but he was also an expert on lichens - one of the most prominent at the time - and he published Lichenes suecici exsiccati (40 fascicles, 1897-1926) and Lichenes Austroamericani ex Herbario Regnelliano (13 fascicles, 1924-1936). Malmes collections of lichens are kept at the Department of Cryptogamic Botany at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Five plant genera have been named after Gustaf Malme. Among those there are two lichen genera (Malmella and Malmia) and one fungus genus (Malmeomyces). The plant genus Malmea (Annonaceae) was described in 1905 by R. E. Fries (1876-1966). The type specimen for the genus chosen by Fries, on which he also based the new species Malmea obovata, is today kept at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. In present time, the plant genus Malmeanthus (Asteraceae) has been named after Malme.
Text: Mia Ehn Salter
Arwidsson, T., 1937: (portrait), Revista sudamer. Bot 5(1,2): 44-45.
Lindman, C. A. M. et al., 1916: Naturhistoriska Riksmuseets historia.
Malme, G. O., 1904: Reseberättelse, Vetenskapsakademiens Årsbok.
Valentin, A., 1932: Naturhistoriska riksmuseets botaniska avdelning., Viola, nr. 43