Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

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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Wild in the City Wild in the City: Fauna and Flora of Colorado Urban Spaces
Heidi Snyder & Dorothy DePaulo
Big Earth Publishing
November 2015

Wild in the City is a new book by
Heidi Snyder and Dorothy DePaulo. It is an urban field guide to the sights and sounds of Colorado’s Front Range. For those of us who do not live in Colorado, it is a fine example of what an urban field guide can be.

What makes this book special are the everyday discoveries and surprises the authors share with readers. Without their personal comments, the 91 species descriptions would be similar to the kind of information we’re accustomed to seeing in field guides. Because Heidi and Dorothy share their experiences as city-dwelling naturalists, Wild in the City is more than a regional resource, it is an invitation to explore the suburbs.

Complementing the inviting text are the authors’ true-to-life colored pencil paintings. Both authors are signature members of the Colored Pencil Society of America and have exhibited their work in many international exhibitions. Their colored pencil paintings are so engaging, you feel as if you could fall into them. Wild in the City is not packaged with sound, but if it were, we would hear waves lapping at the edge of a stream, hear the splashing sound water makes when ducks swim and hear the rustling of wind through cattails. On page 103, we would definitely hear the song of the Black-capped Chickadee. It would sound something like this (click “Typical voice”).

Here is a small sample of the flora and fauna featured in Wild in the City, plus a small tantalizing fact about each plant and animal:

Cottonwood Tree
The “cotton” seed production of this species may become a new source of biofuel.

Ring-billed Gull
The plumage of this species was once used to make ladies’ hats.

Northern Leopard Frog & Water Lilies
This species of frog was once collected by the food industry (frog legs).

Northern Leopard Frog and Water Lilies, ©2015 Dorothy DePaulo, all rights reserved

Northern Leopard Frog and Water Lilies, ©2015 Dorothy DePaulo, all rights reserved

Quaking Aspen

The wood from this tree has been used to make chopsticks.

American Avocet
Day-old avocets can walk, swim and dive.

White Ash
A favorite wood to use for baseball bats.


Want to learn more?

Get Wild in the City!

You might also like:

The origin of botanical field guides


In 2014 Dorothy DePaulo and Heidi Snyder were awarded the Julius I. Brown Grant by the American Society of Botanical Artists. Wild in the City: Fauna & Flora of Colorado Urban Spaces was made possible in part by a grant from the American Society of Botanical Artists. (More about ASBA grants)

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TheFruitsWeEat It’s summertime!
Cherries, nectarines, peaches and apricots are in season and now available at local supermarkets and farmers markets.

Celebrate the fresh fruits of the season with the new book by author and illustrator Gail Gibbons. In this book, Gibbons introduces readers to fruit, how it grows, how fruit is harvested and how fruit arrives at the grocery store. Gibbons also touches upon the nutritious qualities of fruit and includes USDA recommendations for healthful eating.
Written for children ages 4-8, The Fruits We Eat is a balanced blend of themes related to botany, horticulture, gardening, and urban agriculture. Gibbons’ colorful illustrations and landscape scenes introduce readers to:

  • Trees
  • Plants, bushes and vines
  • The morphology of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pineapples, watermelon, grapes, apples, pears, cherries, peaches, lemons, and oranges
  • How pineapple plants, banana plants, and grapes grow
  • How fruit is harvested
  • How fruit travels from industrial farms to the grocery store

Gibbons also introduces readers to botanical terminology, as well as nutritional resources in the United States and Canada and includes Web addresses for further study.

If you are a long-time subscriber to ArtPlantae, you may remember reading about other books by Gail Gibbons at the former ArtPlantae Books, namely From Seed to Plant and Apples.
The Fruits We Eat is a colorful and informative introduction to the trees, bushes and vines producing some of our favorite fruit. It is also a nice introduction to the farm-to-store journey our food takes to the local grocer.

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