Friday, 29 June 2012

A botanical artist turns her attention to Celmisia

Celmisia is a mostly New Zealand genus of Asteraceae, with about 70 species.  Many of them are alpine, and each is beautiful in its own way.  Some are truly spectacular, but others are more subtle.  The late David Given devoted a lifetime of research to them, but even so, many taxonomic questions remain.
Celmisia spectabilis, Mt Ruapehu.
Now an emerging botanical artist, Eleanor Burton, has devoted several years to illustrating Celmisias with coloured pencils, and the results are truly impressive.  Eleanor's first exhibition is open right now in the foyer of the Department of Conservation's Head Office in Manners Street, Wellington: go and see it if you can.
Celmisia lindsayi at Nugget Point, Southland.
Celmisias are difficult subjects for the artist.  Like other composites, they're complex, with their hundreds of tiny florets.  What's more, they vary enormously in their leaf indumentum, which gives the leaves a silvery or greyish hue, which is difficult to illustrate.  Eleanor has captured the essence of these lovely plants in her drawings, in a way that invokes the appreciation one feels when seeing them in the wild.
Celmisia sessilifolia, Mt Robert.
This exhibition covers over a third of the genus, and I hope Eleanor will carry on to complete the set.  It would be a remarkable and valuable contribution to science.
Celmisia gracilenta, Kettlehole Tarn, Canterbury
I had the pleasure of being asked to say a few words at a function at the exhibition tonight.  The lighting didn't allow me to photograph any of the pictures, so I've illustrated this entry with my photos, but do go and see the pictures for yourself if you're nearby.  If you can't get to it, join me in hoping that Eleanor's pictures will be published one day.

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