Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

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!

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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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WondersOfPlantKingdomIt’s Fascination of Plants Day!

Organized under the auspices of the European Plant Science Organisation, Fascination of Plants Day aims to encourage the public to become fascinated with plants and understand the important role plant science plays in the fields of agriculture, sustainability, horticulture, forestry, food, medicine and everyday life.

In celebration of the third anniversary of this global celebration, I would like to introduce you to a new book, Wonders of the Plant Kingdom, A Microcosm Revealed.

You may already be familiar with the other books by seed morphologist Wolfgang Stuppy, artist Rob Kesseler and pollen researcher Madeline Harley where they explore the world of plants through the scanning electron microscope (SEM). In their new book, the authors explore sexual reproduction in plants and explain the hidden processes and structures related to:

  • Pollen
  • Flower morphology
  • Double fertilization
  • Alternation of Generations
  • The difference between pollen, spores and seeds
  • Pollen grain morphology
  • Pollination Syndromes (i.e., pollination by wind, water, insects, other animals)
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Seed dispersal (wind, water, insects, other animals and explosive strategies)
  • The colors of fruits and seeds

The authors also include a section about art and botany.

Informative text and Kesseler’s color-coded images offer readers unique views of the plant world. This book has a definite “Wow” factor and is sure to engage any audience. To view examples of Kesseler’s work, visit his website, specifically his PHY-TOPIC gallery featuring SEM images of plants.

Published in February 2015, Wonders of the Plant Kingdom, A Microcosm Revealed can be purchased at an independent bookstore near you.

Literature Cited

Stuppy, Wolfgang and Rob Kesseler, Madeline Harley. 2014. Wonders of the Plant Kingdom, A Microcosm Revealed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

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National Environmental Education Week begins today!

Educators are encouraged to visit the EE Week website and to take advantage of the resources available for their classrooms and programs.

This week we’ll highlight resources for artists, naturalists and educators. Some will come from the depths of ArtPlantae’s archives and others will be new resources to consider. Take, for example, the new book by paper engineer and book artist Shawn Sheehy.

Last month Shawn published his first trade book, Welcome to the Neighborwood. This book is about animals and ecosystems found in many locations across the country. Children and adults will learn about land snails, hummingbirds, garden spiders, honeybees, Potter wasps, beavers and stickleback fish in the kind of grand pop-up style only Shawn can deliver.

Begin EE Week by taking a few moments to look inside Shawn’s new book and learn how Shawn created his book by watching the videos on his website.

Then take a trip to your local bookstore and treat yourself or your favorite young naturalist to Welcome to the Neighborwood!

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ScienceWithPlants Science with Plants is a collection of hands-on activities about the structure and function of plants. The interdisciplinary activities in this book were created for children ages 8-12 and are a nice blend of art, math, ecology, gardening and of course, botany. You won’t need fancy supplies to complete these activities. Most of the items you’ll need are common household items. The major themes of Science with Plants are outlined below.

Here is a brief overview of what you’ll find in this 24-page book:

    Art Activity: Keep a Nature Diary
    Supplies Needed: Beans, lentils, rice, a glass jar, bean seeds
    Concepts Addressed: Seed morphology, how to conduct an investigation, germination, phototropism (a plant’s growth response to light), gravitropism (a plant’s growth response to gravity)
    Also See: A Seed is Sleepy

    Growing Plants

    Art Activity: Create a growth chart for nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Bean plants
    Other Subjects: Math, measuring
    Concepts Addressed: Seedling morphology, plant structure and function, plant needs, data collection
    Also See: Drawings reveal children’s conceptual knowledge of plant structure and function

    Plants and Water

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Celery, ink, any potted plant, a plastic bag, small 2” plants, a large bottle (I think one of those clear plastic containers used for mixed nuts or jelly beans from warehouse stores would work well.)
    Concepts Addressed: Water conduction, plant tissues, transpiration, introduction to the water cycle

    Plants Use Light

    Art Activity: Leaf Print
    Supplies Needed: House plants, foil, paper, crayons
    Concepts Addressed: Phototropism, photosynthesis, leaf shapes, plant identification
    Also See:
    Comic book about photosynthesis
    The chemistry of plants


    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Roses, common flowering plants (e.g., tulip, daffodil, iris), magnifying glass (or try a magnifying glass app)
    Concepts Addressed: Flower morphology, plant-pollinator relationships, pollination


    Art Activity: Observing Trees
    Supplies Needed: Tree(s) in the yard or neighborhood
    Concepts Addressed: Tree growth, tree canopies, deciduous vs. evergreen
    Also See: Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

    New Plants from Old Plants

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Onions, amaryllis, carrot tops, beet tops
    Concepts Addressed: Bulb morphology, forcing bulbs, vegetative propagation
    Also See: How to create a themed plant display

    Seed Dispersal

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Dirt, plastic bag, assorted examples of seeds and fruit types
    Concept Addressed: Seed dispersal
    Also See: Seed pod project by Anna Laurent

    Plants & Soil

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Soil, a clear glass (or plastic) jar, water, leaf litter, a plastic bag
    Concepts Addressed: Soil, decomposition
    Also See: A Log’s Life and the work of scientific illustrator, Robin Brickman

    Useful Plants

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Assorted plant material from the panty and refrigerator, cotton balls, newspaper
    Concepts Addressed: Recycling, economic botany
    Also See: Colorful Edibles

Author Helen Edom does a wonderful job of filling this book with practical learning experiences and clear instruction. She closes her book with a section titled, Notes for Parents and Teachers, in which she provides additional information to help parents and teachers answer questions that may come up during the activities.

Science with Plants is a nice addition to any home or classroom library and will provide hours of fun and thoughtful observation.

Available from your local independent bookstore. ($5.99)

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Kids & Trees

What goes on inside cones? Where does fruit come from? How do trees eat and drink?

The answers to these questions can be found in this comprehensive resource created by Gina Ingoglia, the author of 80 children’s books, a landscape designer, and the vice president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Florilegium Society.

After introducing young naturalists (and their grown-ups) to tree biology and tree identification, Ingoglia profiles 33 trees that are easily observed in neighborhoods, botanical gardens, or the local arboretum. Each tree profile is composed of background information about a tree, its growth, and the proper pronunciation of its scientific name. Like the plant names in our pocket dictionary, each species name is written out phonetically. Tree profiles also include a whole plant illustration and illustrations of leaves, flowers, fruit, leaf buds, needles, bark, and branches. If a characteristic is important to a tree’s identification, Ingoglia includes an illustration of this characteristic. Grade: 3-4, Age: 8-9

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore.

First published at ArtPlantae Today on Dec. 16, 2010.

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Start Here

What is well-conceived is clearly expressed.
— Agathe Ravet-Haevermans

In The Art of Botanical Drawing: An Introductory Guide, Agathe Ravet-Haevermans provides a brief history of botanical art and interesting insight into how she and fellow scientific illustrators document plants at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Beginners will find Ravet-Haevermans’ instructions easy to understand and they will appreciate her drawing and painting demonstrations which feature three different stages of development so beginners can see how a technique is accomplished. All examples are executed gracefully and are sure to inspire new artists. This is a well-rounded portable gem of a book that fits easily into a backpack or small canvas bag.

Ravet-Haevermans addresses the following topics:

  • How to draw plants and how to capture their volumes and shadows on paper
  • How to mix colors and create gradations
  • How to reserve a light area and a highlight area
  • How to apply color
  • How to paint petals
  • Drawing and painting bark and storage organs
  • Drawing and painting stems and branches
  • Drawing and painting buds and leaves
  • Drawing and painting flower buds and flowers
  • Drawing and painting fruits and vegetables
  • Painting fruit and seeds

Ravet-Havermans also provides “how-to” examples for the following:

  • Garden Plants (poppy, Nasturtium, periwinkle, Agapanthus, Fuschia, Arisaema)
  • The Kitchen Garden (aubergine, Haricot/’Tongue of Fire’ beans, butternut squash, carrots)
  • Meadow Plants (grasses)
  • Forest Plants (mistletoe, holly, ferns, mushrooms)
  • The Botanical Garden (dried stalks, Arbutus, kiwi)
  • The Aquatic Garden (Equisetum, water hibiscus, lotus)
  • Succulents (melon cactus, Lithops, Gasteria)
  • Greenhouse Plants (Dendrobium, Venus flytrap, Cobra plant, Papyrus)
  • Field sketches and painting outdoors
  • Creating details such as skeletonized leaves, artichoke bracts, bamboo stalks, and the circles observed in the cross-section of onion slices
  • Water drops, insects, and eaten leaves

Get this book at your local independent bookstore.

First published at ArtPlantae Today on May 4, 2009.

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