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[Detail] Preface from Punchinello 1, no.1 (1870).

Botanical Illustration

Botanical illustration—realistic drawing of a particular type of plant—is a special art form. Its primary purpose is to depict accurately and in detail a plant's characteristics so plants of that variety can be identified. The need for scientific accuracy does not mean that botanical illustrations cannot also be beautiful works of art.

Garden and Forest includes numerous examples of botanical illustration. Because of printing technology of the time, these illustrations are in black-and-white so they lack the identifying element of color. Still, they convey a great deal of detail about the plants depicted.

Study the example of a botanical illustration below or browse Garden and Forest for another illustration that interests you.

  • What parts of the plant are detailed in the drawing?
  • Pick one part of the plant and write a description based on the drawing. Be as specific as you can be in your description.
  • Try to find out about the color of the plant by reading the text accompanying the illustration or conducting additional research. Add color terms to your description.
  • Do you think this illustration is a work of art? Is it beautiful? Explain your answers.