Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

If you enjoy doodling, sketching, drawing, or painting plants, chances are you’ve had a moment in which you did not know the name or function of the plant part in front of you.

Fortunately for the contemporary botanical illustrator, there are books to help artists navigate the world of plant morphology. These books have been reviewed here in the past.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a botany book that serves as a comprehensive guide to the botanical world. While written for botanical illustrators, classroom teachers will also enjoy the thorough treatment of plant biology, and naturalists will find this book to be a welcome companion in the field.

Understanding the Flowering Plants: A Practical Guide for Botanical Illustrators is a book by botanist, teacher, and botanical illustrator Anne L.D. Bebbington. It is based on material from a course Anne taught with Mary Brewin for the Institute for Analytical Plant Illustration (IAPI) back in 2010. The program they led was a botany program created specifically for botanical artists. In this course, they aimed to help botanical artists “gain a better understanding of the flowering plants and so inform their artwork” (Bebbington, 2014). Since then Anne has taught many workshops as interest in plants and botany has grown among art groups in the UK. Anne currently runs workshops as part of the Kew Illustration Course and works as a botanist/tutor in the Society of Botanical Artists Long Distance Diploma Course. Fellow IAPI members are also visiting art groups and leading workshops.

Whether you are a botanical artist entering juried exhibitions, a passionate nature journaler, or an avid gardener, Understanding the Flowering Plants is a reference not to be missed.

Anne’s book is extensive and she discusses a lot of information in the book’s 256 pages. Here are the main topics addressed in the book’s twelve chapters:

  • What is a flowering plant?
  • The Approach to a Botanical Study
  • Tools and Techniques
  • The Flowering Plant – Structure and Living Processes
  • Leaves
  • Roots and Stems
  • Life Spans and Asexual Reproduction
  • Flowers
  • Sexual Reproduction
  • Fruits and Seeds and Their Dispersal
  • Seeds — Their Structure and Germination
  • Winter Twigs

This book does not read like a typical botany book. Anne has kept the text brief and informative and uses line drawings and color photographs to illustrate the points she makes. The book’s supporting images are more than just helpful. I think they make the book and enable readers to establish a working knowledge of plants. Here are a few features I think are especially good:

Writing Plant Names

    • This section is a wonderful guide to writing plant names. Illustrators can’t go wrong following Anne’s advice.

Collecting, Storing and Reviving Specimens

This section features helpful tips for artists and gardeners.

Tools & Techniques

The Tools & Techniques chapter is filled with practical information about how to use microscopes, cameras, scanners, and computers to document plants.

Inflorescence Types

Inflorescences are clusters of flowers. Think hollyhock, orchids, and snapdragons. What makes Anne’s treatment of this subject stand out is that she pairs the standard line drawings of inflorescence types with photographs of actual inflorescences.

Pollination Mechanisms

There are wonderful labeled photographs in this section.

The Mistletoe Story

I knew the story, but have never seen a photograph of a mistletoe seed germinating on a branch. Fascinating!

Throughout this book, Anne gives thoughtful attention to the structures illustrators may encounter in their work.

Also included in this book are art projects designed to help readers assess their understanding of information in the chapters about leaves, roots, stems, reproduction, flowers, fruit, seeds, seed dispersal, and twigs.

Completing this book are a glossary of terms, a bibliography, a listing of equipment suppliers (in the UK), and a listing of societies and courses (also in the UK).

While the resources in the book are UK-specific, Anne’s instruction is not. If you are attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Botanical Artists next month, you will have the opportunity to learn from Anne directly. Anne will give a free lecture about the pollination of flowers and lead a one-day workshop titled, “Looking Inside a Flower.”

Understanding the Flowering Plants
can be purchased at an independent bookstore near you.

Literature Cited

Bebbington, Anne L.D. (2014). Understanding the Flowering Plants: A practical guide for botanical illustrators. Ramsbury, Marlborough: Crowood Press.

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See inside

Welcome to New Zealand: A Nature Journal is a bright and colorful introduction to documenting the natural world.

Author and illustrator Sandra Morris filled this 48-page book with many inspiring ideas. It is a great resource to use this week during
National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), not to mention that fast-approaching summer vacation!

Included in the colorful pages of her book are ideas not usually found in journaling books.

These ideas include:

  • How to create a seasonal color wheel.
  • How to create a garden food chain.
  • How to sketch a forest ecosystem.
  • How to create a habitat study.
  • How to create a layered map of shore birds.
  • How to create a moon log.
  • How to track cloud formations during the day.
  • How to create a zoo trail map.

An idea I especially like is Morris’ approach to comparing two species of swamp birds. This smart idea will appeal to someone who is learning about birds and who is just now beginning a practice of sketching birds.

Selected pages of this book are viewable online.

Welcome to New Zealand can be purchased from your local bookseller through IndieBound. Better yet, stop by your local bookstore this weekend and help them celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, an annual event occurring on the fourth Saturday of April (learn more).

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Does your busy life cause you to neglect your houseplants?
There are 14 plants in this book just for you!

House Jungle: A Guide to Becoming a Successful Indoor Gardener!
is a cheerful new book containing the type of information a person needs to green up their living space. It is perfect both in content and in size for homeowners, apartment residents, dorm dwellers, and RV enthusiasts whose home is on four wheels.

Written and playfully illustrated by designer Annie Dornan-Smith, House Jungle is a helpful guide for indoor gardeners. Houseplant enthusiasts will learn:

  • The benefits of houseplants
  • How to start an indoor garden
  • How to decorate with houseplants
  • How to care for houseplants
  • Where to buy houseplants
  • How to make more houseplants

Indoor gardeners will also learn about fourteen plants that can tolerate low light and a little bit of neglect. This is a good starter list for anyone who doubts their ability to maintain a thriving indoor garden.

While Dornan-Smith surely had homeowners in mind when writing House Jungle, I think this book is also a good resource for teachers interested in bringing houseplants into the classroom. Written and illustrated like a sketchbook, House Jungle features easy-to-follow text and instruction that promises to keep students engaged with the care of their classroom jungle. Plus its format can spark ideas and conversation about how students can track the growth of their indoor garden and keep a nature/science journal of their own.

Published just last week, House Jungle is available directly from the author (for UK readers) and from your local independent bookstore (for US readers).


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Order online from local independent bookstores.

Order online from your local bookstore.

A Botanist’s Vocabulary is an illustrated guide to plants, a dictionary and an introduction to the plant sciences.

If you are familiar with Plant Identification Terminology by Harris & Harris (2001) and Hickey & King’s The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms (2001), you may be wondering how this new book compares to these two informative and indispensable standards. Allow me to come right out and say you can confidently add A Botanist’s Vocabulary as the third informative and indispensable standard to your botany-art library.

The key difference between this new title and the older titles is its focus. Co-authors Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell write for a general audience instead of an audience of mostly botanists. The authors have thoughtfully written A Botanist’s Vocabulary to to serve as a user-friendly reference for all plant enthusiasts. In the introduction, Pell and Angell explain:

We have attempted to define terms used by botanist’s, naturalists, and gardeners alike to describe plants. We have simplified and clarified as much as possible to encourage the use of a common language. The included terms mostly refer to plant structures and come from the horticultural and botanical literature and practice.

It is important to note the authors’ focus on practice. This new glossary features not only plant morphology terms, but terminology from many disciplines. In addition to words like scape, locule and whorl, are terms from at least 11 areas within the natural sciences. Here’s a short list as an example:

  • Soil science (e.g., calcareous)
  • Molecular biology (e.g., chimera)
  • Pollination biology (e.g., chiropterophily)
  • Plant ecology (e.g., clinal variation)
  • Plant taxonomy (e.g., conserved)
  • Horticulture (e.g., cultigen)
  • Genetics (e.g., hybrid swarm)
  • Tissue culture (e.g., explant)
  • Orchidology (e.g., keiki)
  • Ecology (e.g., myrmecophyte)
  • Biogeography (e.g., paleotropics)

You will not find terms like these in Harris & Harris (2001) or Hickey & King (2001). The inclusion of terms such as these helps readers see beyond the morphological features of plants and beyond botany.

Bobbi Angell’s illustrations teach as much as they explain

Copyright ©2016 by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell. All illustrations are by Bobbi Angell. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2016 by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell. All illustrations are by Bobbi Angell. Published by Timber Press, Portland, OR. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Journalers, botanical art enthusiasts and educators can learn a lot by studying the illustrations of scientific illustrator Bobby Angell. Lessons that can be learned include:

  • How changing the weight of a line portrays form (see all illustrations)
  • How massing leaves can relay form and density (e.g., see canopy)
  • How stippling can be used in line drawings (see all illustrations)
  • How plants can be drawn in a lively and organic way (e.g., see capitulum)
  • How depth and fullness are possible in line drawings (e.g., see mericarp)
  • How grounding a specimen and showing how it grows can be accomplished with a minimal amount of stippling (e.g., see caudiform)

I could go on and on because there is something to be learned from each illustration. However, I will not do this. I will instead encourage you to explore this new resource yourself.

A Botanist’s Vocabulary can be purchased online from your local bookstore.

Literature Cited

    • Harris, James G., and Melinda Woolf Harris. 2001.

Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary

    • , 2nd ed. Spring Lake Publishing, Spring Lake, Utah.

Hickey, Michael, and Clive Kind. 2001. The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

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Merian-PP-For-TRADE-Cat-190x150mm.inddMaria Merian’s Butterflies
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
London, England
April 15 – October 9, 2016

A new book about the Maria Sibylla Merian collection in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace features 150 color plates, many of which were published in Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphoses of the Insects of Surinam).

Kate Heard, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection Trust, writes about Merian’s childhood fascination with butterflies and moths and her journey to Suriname to observe and document these insects and their host plants. Heard also writes about the people who influenced Merian’s artwork, and the fieldwork and research that earned Merian the title ‘the first ecologist’.

Every page of this book is a history lesson. If you are an admirer of Merian’s work, this book provides you the opportunity to study her paintings up close as her paintings fill most of the book’s 192 pages. If this is your first introduction to Merian and her contributions to entomology and natural history art, this book is sure to turn you into a fan of this fearless and passionate naturalist.

Maria Merian’s Butterflies compliments the exhibition of the same name now on view at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace.

This book is now available at your local independent bookstore.


Art, Ecology and Maria Sibylla Merian

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TheBotanicalTreasuryConsidered the “plant clearinghouse” of the British Empire, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has accepted plants from all over the world since 1793 (Mills, 2016).

Forty intriguing plants from their collection are described in The Botanical Treasury: Celebrating 40 of the World’s Most Fascinating plants through Historical Art and Manuscripts, a new book edited by Christopher Mills, Head of Library Art & Archiving at Kew.

Botanists, scholars and curators contributed to this collection of very interesting stories about plants, people, art, science and Kew itself. Contributing authors are:

  • Julia Buckley, Information Assistant, Kew Art & Illustrations Collection
  • Lorna Cahill, Assistant Archivist, Kew
  • Chris Clennent, Garden Manager at Wakehurst, Kew’s country estate in Sussex
  • Aljos Farjon, Conifer Specialist and Honorary Research Specialist, Kew
  • Gina Fullerlove, Head of Publishing, Kew
  • Lauren Gardiner, Career Development Fellow, palm and orchid specialist at Kew
  • David Goyder, Botanist, Kew Africa and Madagascar Team
  • Tony Hall, Honorary Research Associate at Kew, formerly manager of the Alpine and Bulb Unit
  • Christina Harrison, Editor, Kew Magazine
  • Christopher Mills, Head of the Library, Art and Archives Collections, Kew
  • Virginia Mills, Project Officer for Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project, Kew
  • Mark Nesbitt, Curator, Economic Botany Collection, Kew
  • Lynn Parker, Assistant Art and Artifacts Curator, Library of Art and Archives, Kew
  • Tony Rebelo, South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch, Cape Town
  • Martyn Rix, Horticulturalist, author and editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine
  • Kiri Ross-Jones, Archivist and Records Manager, Kew
  • Marcelo Sellaro, Collections Horticulturalist, Nurseries Department, Kew
  • Anna Trias-Blasi, Research Fellow, Kew
  • Maria Vorontsova, Research Leader of Integrated Monography, Department of Comparative Plant and Fungal Biology, Kew
  • James Wearn, Science Education, Kew
  • Richard Wilford, Head of Garden Design and Collection Support, Kew
  • Joanne Yeomans, Gallery Assistant, Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and Marianne North Gallery, Kew
  • Daniela Zappi, Cactus Expert, Kew

The historical accounts of each plant are accompanied by drawings, paintings and manuscripts. The manuscripts and the stories behind them provide insight into the relationship people had, and still have, with these plants.

Packaged in a beautiful clamshell box, this book comes with 40 collectible art prints. Botanical art enthusiasts are sure to enjoy this special collection of framable plant portraits that includes: Angelica, Banksia, Adansonia, Bromeliads, Ferocactus hamatacanthus, Camellia, Cinchona, Citrus, Datura and Brugmansia, Encephalartos, Fritillaria, Ginkgo biloba, Lagenaria siceraria, Grape Vine, Saccharin officinarum, Handkerchief Tree, Iris, Lilium mackliniae, Nelumbo, Magnolia, Zea mays, Nepenthes, Papaver, Vanda coerulea, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, Coconut Palm, Pandanus, Paper Mulberry, Passiflora, Peony, Protea, Rhododendron, Damask Rose, Stapelia, Strelizia, Amorphophallus titanum, Tulipa, Victoria amazonica, Welwitschia, Wheat.

The Botanical Treasury is a beautifully packaged time capsule and is recommended for anyone with an interest in botany and botanical art history.

This book is now available in the US. Visit your local independent bookstore.

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TreasuredTrees Botanical artist Masumi Yamanaka, horticulturist Christina Harrison and botanist Martyn Rix collaborate to write Treasured Trees, an introduction to the tree collection at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The book begins with Christina Harrison’s interesting story about the history of Kew, a topic she knows well. Harrison wrote a dissertation about the history of Kew’s trees and holds a MA in Garden History. Currently she writes educational material for the Garden and serves as the editor of Kew magazine. In the book’s introduction Harrison writes about the popularity of botany in 16th-century Europe, talks about the tree collectors of this era, and explains how Kew evolved to become the public garden it is today.

Following the introduction is a survey of twenty-two of Kew’s finest trees. Masumi Yamanaka’s illustrations and Martyn Rix’s historical accounts of each tree will prompt you to add a visit to Kew to your bucket list, if it isn’t on this list already.

Below is a list of trees featured in this book, plus small hints of fascinating history as shared by Rix. To learn much more about the history of each tree, pick up a copy of this book at your local independent bookstore.

Kew’s Treasured Trees

  • Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), a tree once valued for charcoal production.
  • Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), a tree celebrated for its strength and age.
  • Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum), one of Kew’s original trees, planted in 1762.
  • Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba), a tree species dating back to the early Jurassic.
  • Black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia), a tree grown in England as early as 1634 by John Tradescant.
  • Oriental plane (Platanus orientalis), a tree often depicted in Indian paintings.
  • Lucombe oak (Quercus x hispanica ‘Lucombeana’), a hybrid between the cork oak and the Turkey oak planted in the late 1700s.
  • Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), a tree once widespread in Europe before the last ice ages.
  • Turner’s oak (Quercus x turneri), the result of a rare cross between a holm oak and an English oak.
  • Corsican pine (Pinus nigra sups. laricio), the source of the rosin applied to bows used by violinists and cellists and the source of turpentine too!
  • Stone pine (Pinus pinea), a tree planted at Kew just as Sir William Hooker began to develop the garden as a scientific collection.
  • Chestnut-leaved oak (Quercus castaneifolia), a rare oak collected in Azerbaijan.
  • Giant sequoia and coast redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum and Sequoia sempervirens), large impressive temperate trees introduced to England.
  • Armand’s pine (Chinese white pine) (Pinus armandii), a tree discovered by a plant hunter and introduced in cultivation in 1895.
  • Handkerchief tree (dove tree) (Davidia involucrata), a tree whose inflorescences feature large white bracts.
  • Indian horse chestnut (Aesculus indica), a tree Masumi Yamanaka painted in all stages of its life cycle; don’t miss this 9-page spread.
  • Bhutan pine (Pinus wallichiana), native to the Himalayas.
  • Nikko maple (Acer maximowiczianum), named after a Russian botanist who discovered the tree in 1860.
  • Indian bean tree (southern catalpa) (Catalpa bignonioides), native to Alabama and Mississippi, also present in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.
  • Goat horn tree (Carrierea calycina), produces horn-like fruit.
  • Bogong gum (Eucalyptus chapmaniana), native to New South Wales and Victoria in Australia.
  • Sapphire dragon tree (Paulownia kawakamii), named after the daughter of Czar Paul I of Russia.

Treasured Trees features 40 paintings by Masumi Yamanaka. To view a selection of these paintings, visit the Kew Gallery.

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