Petter Adolf Karsten (1834 - 1917) - a brief biography

August Petter Adolf Karsten, public domain image

Finnish mycologist Petter Adolf Karsten was born in Merimasku near the seaport city of Turku, some 150km west of Helsinki. He studied at the University of Helsinki, gaining a Masters degree in 1860 before spending a year teaching at secondary schools in Tampere and Turku.

In 1861 Karsten moved to Russia's Kola Peninsula, where for the next three years he taught at the Gymnasium at Pietarsaari. In 1864 he took up a botanical lecturing post at Mustiala Agriculture Institute (now part of Häme Polytechnic), where he remained until his retirement 45 years later . 

Karsten's mycological research work was broad, including both macroscopic and microscopic sfungi, aaaand was based largely on material he collected locally at Tamella, southern Finland, although he also received and studied fungi specimens sent to him from other parts of the world including France, Brazil and Siberia.

In his species descriptions, Karsten made extensive use of microscopic characters. He described many new genera, some of which lost favour but haverecently been reinstated as DNA has shown that they are based on valid phylogenic relationships.

In a long working lifetime Petter Adolf Karsten named some 200 new genera - for example the genus Ganoderma was introduced Karsten in 1881 - and about 2,000 new species. The vast herbarium collection amassed by Karsten is now housed in the Botanical Museum of the Finnish Museum of Natural History.

The standard author abbreviation P. Karst is used to indicate Petter Adolf Karsten as the author when citing a botanical or mycological name.


Karstenia, the international journal of mycology published by the Finnish Mycological Society, is dedicated to the memmory of Petter Adolf Karsten, whos is considered to be the 'father of Finnish mycology.'.

Published Works

(1861) Synopsis Pezizarum et Ascobolarum Fenniae - Summary of the Pezizas and Ascobolus species of Finland

(1871 - 1879) Mycologia Fennica - The Fungi of Finland, 4 volumes. 

(1879) Rysslands, Finlands och den Skandinaviska halföns Hattsvampar - Mushrooms of Russia, Finland, and Skandinavia

(1881) 'Tylopilus felleus article', in Revue Mycologique 3 p. 16 

(1885) Icones selectae Hymenomycetum Fenniae - Pictures of Selected Finnish Mushrooms 

(1889) Bidrag till kännedom af Finlands Natur och Folk: Kritish öfersigt of Finlands Basidsvampar (Basidiomycetes: Gastero & Hymenomycetes) - Critical overview of Finlands Basidiomycetes (Gastero & Hymenomycetes [Addenda to this work were published in1893, 1898 and 1899.

(1892) Finlands mögelsvampar - Finland's ascomycetes

(1899) Finlands basidsvampar I urval beskrifna - Finland's basidiomycetes 

Selected Sources:

Harri Harmaja (2003) Petter Adolf Karsten

Petter Adolf Karsten (1834-1917): Collected Mycological Papers; published by A. Asher & Co (1973)

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