S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Auge, Mr Johann Andreas (plant collection, horticulture)

Born: 1711, Stolberg am Harz, Germany.
Died: 1805, Swellendam district, South Africa.

J.A. Auge was trained as a gardener in Germany and moved to Holland, then renowned for its horticulture, before he was 20 years old. He improved his knowledge of plants under Herman Boerhaave at the Botanic Garden in Leiden and, having seen the plants collected at the Cape of Good Hope by H.B. Oldenland*, decided to visit the Cape himself. He arrived in 1747 and was appointed as assistant in the Dutch East India Company's garden in Cape Town by Governor Swellengrebel. In 1751 he was promoted to superintendent of the garden by governor Rijk Tulbagh, who was himself interested in natural history. Under Auge's direction the garden became of much greater botanical importance than before, as he collected and cultivated many indigenous species of trees, shrubs and plants. He made many long collecting trips into the interior and some of the plants and insects that he collected were sent to Europe by Tulbagh. Collections of plants, insects and birds were also sold to visitors who touched at the Cape. From July 1761 to April 1762 he accompanied the expedition under Captain Hendrik Hop which crossed the Orange River and penetrated beyond the Karas Mountains in present Namibia, bringing back a collection of plant materials which included new species. In 1764 he sold a collection of plants to Michael Grubb, director of the Swedish East India Company, who touched at the Cape on his way from the East to Europe. This collection was later presented to Prof. P.J. Bergius of Stockholm and formed the basis of his Descriptiones plantarum ex Capite Bonae Spei ... (1767) in which he described 10 new genera of Cape plants.

Auge acted as guide to the celebrated Swedish botanist C.P. Thunberg* when the latter visited the Cape and set out on his first expedition in September 1772. Thunberg described him as follows (Forbes, 1986, p. 29): "Auge's knowledge of botany was not very considerable, nor did his collections in general extend much farther than to the great and the beautiful; but, in the mean time, we are almost solely indebted to him for all the [botanical] discoveries which have been made..." [recently]. According to Thunberg, Auge had by this time already made 18 trips into the interior. They left Cape Town on 7 September 1772 and collected near Mamre for a week before travelling to Saldanha Bay. From there they turned east, followed the Berg River past the Piketberg, and crossed the mountains towards Roodezand (Tulbagh). After collecting in the vicinity for two weeks they continued south-eastwards and followed the Breede River to Swellendam. From there they travelled east via Mossel Bay and Knysna to Plettenberg Bay. In the Knysna forests the party was attacked by a buffalo which killed two of their horses. They continued north over the Outeniqua Mountains to the Langkloof, and then east as far as the Gamtoos River. On the return journey they kept north of the Outeniqua mountains and the Langeberg, crossed the latter at Plattekloof near present Heidelberg, and arrived back in Cape Town on 2 January 1773.

Auge also collected with Francis Masson* and met Anders Sparrman* when the latter was at the Cape. Owing to failing eyesight he retired on pension in 1778 and went to live with a friend on a farm in the Gamtoos River area. Within a few years he was completely blind. After losing his pension when the British occupied the Cape in 1795, he also lost his books and herbarium when the farm on which he was staying was attacked during the Third Frontier War in 1799-1802. He spent the rest of his life living on the farm Rotterdam near Swellendam, which belonged to the landdrost of that town. When he was 93 years old he was visited by M.H.K. Lichtenstein*, who found that Auge had retained his love of botany and still had a good memory for plant names. Lichtenstein managed to get his pension restored and was also able to tell him that Thunberg had named the monotypic genus Augea (zygophyllaceae) in his honour.

List of sources:
Britten, J. Some early Cape botanists and collectors. Journal of the Linnaean Society, Botany, 1920-1922, Vol. 45, pp. 29-51.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 1, 1968.

Forbes, V.S. Carl Peter Thunberg. Travels at the Cape of Good Hope, 1772-1775. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, Series 2, No. 17, 1986.

Godee Molsbergen, E.C. Reizen in Zuid-Afrika in de Hollandsche Tijd (Vol. 1, pp. 24-50). Den Haag: Linschoten Vereniging, 4 vols, 1916-1932.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Hoge, J. Personalia of the Germans at the Cape, 1652-1806. Archives Yearbook of South African History, 9th year. Cape Town: Government Printer, n.d.

Karsten, M.C. The old Company s garden at the Cape and its superintendents. Cape Town: Maskew Miller, 1951.

Lichtenstein, M.H.C. Travels in southern Africa in the years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806 (Vol. 2, p. 168-171). London: Colburn, 1812-1815.

MacOwan, P. Personalia of botanical collectors at the Cape. Transactions of the South African Philosophical Society, 1886, Vol. 4, pp. xxx-liii.

Mossop, E.E. The journals of Brink and Rhenius. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, VRS 28, 1947.

Wittenberg, F. Johannes Andreas Auge, Gartner am Fusse des Tafelbergs. Lantern, February 1992, Vol. 41, pp. 19-21.

Compiled by: C. Plug