Scientifically accurate representations of plants are critical to the field of botany, particularly when describing new species and distinguishing between similar species.  Scientists and artists use living plants and specimens to create lifelike art that records the fine details of plants.

Metrosideros tomentosa (Pohutukawa). New Zealand flora, undated. Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University.
Botanical art often accompanies published text, conveying additional information to the reader.  These may take the form of pencil or pen and ink drawings, watercolor or oil paintings, and other formats.


The archival collections of the Botany Libraries are rich in original artwork that represents the scientific work of Harvard botanists, including illustrations by Jacob Bigelow and watercolors by Charles E. Faxon.

The collections also include China trade export paintings, some executed on pith paper, and hundreds on English watermarked paper, illustrations and a list of South African plants sent by Clemenz H. Wehdemann, and several collections of art created by “amateur” women botanists who illustrated the plants and fungi that they studied.

Included in the collections are drawings, sketches, and proof plates in addition to final works.

Lilium philadelphicum L. Wild flowers of eastern North America illustrations, 1887-1934. Botany Libraries, Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard University