Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Paintings of cacti and succulents appear in any number of gardening books. One of my favorite titles includes plates from many historic books.
“Flora-An Illustrated History of the Garden Flowers” by Brent Elliott was released by Firefly. It is a Royal Horticultural Society title. This is full of exquisite color plates.
The frontispiece has a black and white drawing by Jacob Breyne from a 1678 title called “Exoticarum.” One sketch showed the cape mesembryanthemum in a pot. The plant is now known as Conicosia pagioniformis. Introduced from South Africa in the 17th century, this showed flowers and foliage.
“Flora’ also has a sketch of the common aloe growing in a wooden barrel or tub. The sketch was in black and white, and showed the plant in bloom. This illustration originally appeared in “Photographia Curiosa,” written by Munting and published in 1704.
“Flora” also features paintings of two other aloe species—Aloe variegata and Aloe saponaria. These illustrations were originally from a book called “Phytanthoza.” Published by Johann Wilhelm Weinman (1683-1741), this was published in installments from 1734-1747.
Weinman commissioned art from a number of botanical illustrators though none are given credit on the plates. Weinman was an apothecary in Regensburg, Germany. Before the book was completed, Weinman died.
The painting of Aloe variegata shows a plant with neat rows of gray-green foliage speckled with white. This had a tall flower stalk with little tubular, bicolored orange and greenish-white blooms.
Aloe saponaria is called the great soap aloe. This painting depicts a plant with rows of greenish-blue leaves dotted with white. The very tall flower stalks have blooms that are similar to those of Aloe variegata.
Weinman also included a sketch of a potted century plant in bloom.
“Flora” also has color sketches of several cereus. Cereus eriophorus is shown as a thin, ribbed columnar plant with spines and white flowers. This painting also has fruits and cross sections of the fruit. This work originally appeared in a German book series, published in 1838-1850. The book was titled “Abbildung und Beschreiburg Bluhender Cacteen.” It was written by G.C. Pfeiffer et al.
In Pfeiffer’s book, Cereus curtisi is shown as a tall thin, columnar spiny ribbed cactus. This also showed the flowers, flower buds, fruits, and spines as well as a cross section of the fruits.
Echinocactus pfeifferi also appeared in Pfeiffer’s book. This painting shows a round spiny cactus with ribs. It had a cephalium with flowers as well as cross sections of the flowers, seeds, fruits, and spines.
“Flora” also features one other lovely cactus. It has a sketch of Nopalxochia ackermannii that originally appeared in the Botanical Register in 1830. The painting was by M. Hart. This shows flat smooth spineless stems and lots of richly double pink blooms with very large centers.