Carl Linnaeus was a brilliant botanist. He and his students explored many countries and discovered thousands of new types of plants. However, he is most famous for finding a way of organising these discoveries and naming them; a system that every biologist still uses today.

Potato.  This vegetable originally grew in Peru and was brought to England in the 1500s.  At first they were expensive and exotic but now they are one of the most important foods in the world.

Tomato.  This is also from South America.  People initially thought it was poisonous and it wasn't eaten in Britain until the middle of the 18th century.

Pineapple.  Originally from Brazil this exotic fruit was very difficult to grow in Britain.  The first one was grown in a hot house in 1720.

Lemon.  The juice of this fruit was fed to sailors in the 18th century to prevent scurvy.  At the time they didn't know how it worked, but now we know that scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C!

Brussels sprouts.  Traditionally eaten at Christmas, these vegetables weren't grown in Britain until the late 18th Century.

Grapefruit.  This was a brand new fruit, first grown in the 18th century in Barbados by crossing a pomelo and an orange.

Curriculum Links

Fruit and Vegetables

Working Scientifically

Scientific attitudes

  • understand that scientific methods and theories develop as earlier explanations are modified to take account of new evidence and ideas, together with the importance of publishing results and peer review
  • Ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901.

Scottish Curriculum



SCN 2-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I can identify and classify examples of living things, past and present, to help me appreciate their diversity. I can relate physical and behavioural characteristics to their survival or extinction. [Note: level 2]


SCN 3-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I can sample and identify living things from different habitats to compare their biodiversity and can suggest reasons for their distribution.


SCN 4-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I understand how animal and plant species depend on each other and how living things are adapted for survival. I can predict the impact of population growth and natural hazards on biodiversity.

Literacy and English:


LIT 3-14a / LIT 4-14a

Reading - Finding and using information

Using what I know about the features of different types of texts, I can find, select, sort, summarise, link and use information from different sources.


LIT 3-15a / LIT 4-15a

Reading - Finding and using information

I can make notes and organise them to develop my thinking help retain and recall information, explore issues and create new texts, using my own words as appropriate.


Fruit and vegetables

deadly nightshade

Kill and cure.  Deadly nightshade (right) has been used as a poison for thousands of years.  Today, the drug atropine is made from it.  Atropine is used for eye surgery, heart problems and even as an antidote for other poisons!

Carl Linnaeus was born in Sweden 300 years ago.  Although he studied to be a doctor he was really interested in botany, the study of plants.  At that time, having a knowledge of plants was incredibly important in medicine; knowing which plants could cure and which could kill.

The 18th century was a time of exploration, and exploration was a large part of any botanist's life. Not only did Linnaeus explore Lapland but his students and many other botanists sent him plants from around the world.  Thanks to Linnaeus' work, botanical gardens became living libraries of their discoveries.

Newly-discovered plants were not just for studying. In the 18th century gardening became very fashionable. The rich could afford hot houses and grew and ate exotic fruit.  During this century the food people ate began to change.  The agricultural revolution meant more food could be grown on the land and cattle could be fed (and eaten) through the winter.

Key fact: The discoveries made by Linnaeus and his contemporaries provided people not only with exciting new foods to eat, but also new medicines.



What about food that doesn't naturally grow in the UK?  Where did it come from?

Match the fact with the fruit or vegetable!

Take the quiz online here,

or download the pdf worksheet.