Treasuring the Flora of Our Great Nation

A touring art exhibition captures the rare and the commonplace
By Lorraine Ferrier, Epoch Times
May 21, 2019 Updated: May 21, 2019

“Botanical Art Worldwide: America’s Flora” is an exhibition of 46 botanical illustrations of native American flora. Curated by the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) and the United States Botanical Garden (USBG), the show is part of a worldwide collaboration of botanical artists from 24 other countries across six continents.

Pitcher plant
“Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea),” 2017, by Betsy Rogers-Knox. Watercolor on paper, 17 1/2 inches by 16 inches. (Betsy Rogers-Knox)

The aim of the project is to highlight national botanical treasures and connect people with plants through botanical art.

The exhibition ran at USBG in Washington from May 4 to Oct. 15, 2018, and is now part-way through a season-by-season tour. In spring 2019, the show ran at the Missouri Botanical Garden through May 5. The show opens on June 8 for a summer stint at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, in Wausau,Wisconsin. The last stop of the tour will be in the fall at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

The American botanical artists took four years to capture 240 specimens across the country, including bigleaf maple from the West Coast, bottlebrush buckeye from the Eastern Seaboard, and bloodroot, spanning the Midwest and the East.

“Three Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus),” 2016, by Jeannetta van Raalte. Watercolor and gouache on paper. (Jeannetta van Raalte)

The artists captured commonly occurring native flora such as sunflowers, poppies, and violets, and also endangered botanicals such as the lady’s slipper orchids, using a variety of media such as gouache, colored pencil, pen and ink, oil paint, traditional watercolor, and etching.

Orchid pink
“Showy Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium reginae),” 2017, by Linda Powers. Watercolor on vellum, 13 1/2 inches by 10 1/2 inches. (Linda Powers)

Visitors to the exhibition will see native flowers they may never spot in the wild due to their rarity or remote location.

Yellow orchid
“Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens),” 2017, by Carol Woodin. Watercolor on vellum over panel, 15 inches by 15 1/2 inches. (Carol Woodin)

The elusive yellow lady’s slipper orchid is one example. Artist Carol Woodin spent a long time searching for a specimen through a wooded wetland one year, with a hand-drawn map, but the search provided only a few satisfying studies. In the end, she found the right spot. The flower featured in the exhibition was actually drawn from the rock garden at the New York Botanical Garden, where the flower was in bloom in early May, “tucked in among some ferns, peonies, and Jeffersonia,” said Woodin on the ASBA website.

Cactus flowers
“Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea),” by Joan McGann. Ink and watercolor on paper,18 inches by 12 inches. (Joan McGann)

The subject of Joan McGann’s artwork is the local and rare saguaro cactus, the state flower of Arizona. The towering saguaro can be found only in a small pocket of the Sonoran Desert in America’s Southwest and is therefore protected. The saguaro can reach 40 or 50 feet, and McGann made her observations on a ladder.

Pink and white flowers and red leaves
“Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) Fall and Spring,” by Margaret Farr. Watercolor on paper, 23 inches by 17 inches. (Margaret Farr)

Artist Margaret Farr fears that we take dogwood for granted. She made a study of the Virginia state flower, with its familiar delicate white or pink cross-like blossoms lacing along the branches.   

White and pink flowers
“Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos),” 2017, by Karen Kluglein. Watercolor on vellum, 11 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches. (Karen Kluglein)
White poppy flower
“Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri),” 2017, Gilly Shaeffer. Watercolor on paper, 7 3/4 inches by 9 inches. (Gilly Shaeffer)

Whether familiar flora or not, the show allows us a look into the beauty of the natural world of our nation that may be in our very own neighborhoods.

The native flora of the other 24 countries in the worldwide exhibition can also be seen in a digital presentation at the show.

To find out more or to purchase the exhibition catalog, visit

White hydrangea flowers
“Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia),” 2017, by Ingrid Finnan. Oil on paper, 15 inches by 12 inches. (Ingrid Finnan)