Botanical illustrators at the Desert Botanical Garden are living a dream. They are continuing the centuries old tradition of documenting plants to create both a scientific record for biologists and educational material for the public. The botanical illustrators who have endured five years of study and many hours in the studio are about to make their work public.
Eighteen illustrators will present 40-50 pieces of work in the Celebration of Plants exhibition to be held at Kolb Studio on the south rim of the Grand Canyon (July 2 – August 31, 2010). This exhibition is a cooperative effort between the Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon National Park and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ.
Many lectures and activities will be presented during this exhibit. Artists and botanists will draw visitors into the world of art and science by sharing stories about early explorers and the botanists/artists who accompanied them. There will be explanations about how new species are described and discussions about why people should care about plants. Learning activities will include guided plant walks, plant identification workshops, guided plant walks into the canyon, and illustration workshops for all levels.
A Practical Idea Grows
Six years ago Wendy Hodgson, Herbarium Curator at the Desert Botanical Garden, met Lori Makarick, the Vegetation Manager at the Grand Canyon who oversees the management of rare plants, invasive species and habitat restoration. At the time, Makarick was reading a field guide about the special status plants in the Grand Canyon by former botanist, Nancy Brian. Makarick noticed the guide did not contain enough key characteristics in the plant descriptions and that some plant descriptions were not accompanied by illustrations. Hodgson and Makarick discussed updating the field guide. They thought it would be good idea to include an illustration for each plant described in the guide. When they discussed this, Wendy’s thoughts went immediately to the new botanical art and illustration certificate program at the Desert Botanical Garden. Wendy asked students if they were interested in illustrating the rare plants needed for the guide. The idea was met with enthusiastic response.
Makarick asked the Grand Canyon Association to help assemble an exhibit at Kolb Studio. The small group exhibit quickly metamorphosed into a much larger project. Makarick and Hodgson are now using this event as a launchpad to bring attention to the diversity of plants in the Grand Canyon and to bring attention to plants overall. Hodgson explains that, “Nearly fifty percent of all plants growing in Arizona occur in the Grand Canyon.”
Amazing information from someone who knows the Grand Canyon very, very well. Hodgson has studied and documented the plants of the Grand Canyon for 17 years and has described two new species of plants within the canyon. Throughout the process of research and discovery, Hodgson says her research has generated more questions than answers. Her work would be much more difficult if it were not for the plant researchers who came before her. Hodgson says she feels very fortunate to be able to learn from them through their field notebooks, specimens, and publications, with hopes that her own notes, specimens and artists’ illustrations will help future botanists with their studies.
About Wendy Hodgson
Many years ago botanist and illustrator, Wendy Hodgson, landed her first job at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ. Agave expert Howard Scott Gentry needed illustrations for his book, so Wendy created them. A series of Garden jobs ensued until Hodgson, whose true calling is field work and plant documentation, became Herbarium Curator in 1984. The hours Wendy dedicates to her work in the Grand Canyon, are but one part of her career as the botanist for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ., where she has worked for 36 years.
About Lori Makarick
Lori Makarick is the Vegetation Program Manager at the Grand Canyon. Her work is at the heart of the everything that has to do with plants at the Grand Canyon. Lori and her 40 staff members manage rare and invasive plants, manage a native plant nursery, and oversee the collection of seeds from native plants. Lori began her career as an intern with the Student Conservation Association and now helps to manage the Grand Canyon’s 1.2 million acres.
Watch the video below as Lori takes leads a virtual tour of the plant communities in the Grand Canyon.
Artists Participating in the Celebration of Plants Exhibition
Katherine Rink Callingham
Jo Ann Loza
Questions for EE Week Readers:
Have you ever studied the plants of a specific area and documented or illustrated your observations? If so, where did your project take place? If you studied the plants in your own backyard, that’s great! We’d love to hear about this too!