He studied at the universities of Jena and Würzburg and taught, as privatdocent, at the University of Jena beginning 1834.
He is best known for his botanical explorations in the Caucasus region, including northeast Turkey. Most of his collections have today been lost. He is also known as the first professional horticultural officer in Germany.
He became an extraordinary professor in 1836.
He undertook a journey of research into southern Russia in 1836-1838, and a second in 1843-1844. The fruit of this second trip, in which he also visited Asia Minor, Armenia, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains, was his Wanderungen im Orient (Weimar, 1846-1847).
After his second journey, he settled at the University of Berlin in 1847, where he was later appointed assistant professor He was at the Berlin botanical gardens beginning in 1849.
He became general secretary of the Berlin Horticultural Society (Verein zur Beförderung des Gartenbau, a Prussian state institution) in 1852, in which capacity he published Wochenschrift für Gartnerei und Pflanzenkunde (1858-1872).
In 1859, he was appointed professor of the Agricultural High School in Berlin. He died in Berlin.
German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.