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Linnaean Flower Clock


Linnean Flower Cock

Quarterly Co. is a subscription service that enables people to receive physical items in the mail from contributors of their choice. The theme of my quarterly mailings is “Machines for Experimental Living.” My most recent mailing was an Horologium Florae, or flower clock. Below is the letter I sent to subscribers:

Dear Quarterly Subscriber,

Carl Linnaeus, father of taxonomy, divided the flowering plants into three groups: the meteorici, which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions; the tropici, which change their opening and closing times according to the length of the day; and the aequinoctales, which have fixed opening and closing times, regardless of weather or season. Linnaeus noted in his Philosophia Botanica that if one possessed a sufficiently large variety of aequinoctal species, it would be possible to tell time simply by observing the daily opening and closing of flowers. He commented, to the consternation of several local horologists, that his floral clock would be so accurate that it “could put all the watchmakers in Sweden out of business.” Though Linnaeus seems never actually to have planted an horologium florae, or flower clock, we shall. Enclosed in this package are seeds for a variety of aequinoctal flowers that can be used in an horologium florae.

Though winter is now nearly upon us in the northern hemisphere, that only means spring is not far behind. Please let me know how accurately your Linnaean flower clocks tells time, and be sure to email photos and videos to or tweet them with the hashtag #JXF04.


Joshua Foer

Subscriptions to “Machines for Experimental Living” cost just $25, and make a great gift. My next mailing ships in two months. Stay tuned.