The success and popularity of The Silva of North America was due as much to the graceful and finely-rendered illustrations by Charles Edward Faxon as to Charles Sargent’s text. Faxon was a self-taught artist who from an early age had sketched trees, landscapes, and birds while exploring the natural areas in and around Boston. He lived his entire life in Jamaica Plain and only rarely travelled outside New England.

He trained as a civil engineer and developed a notable skill in mechanical drawing. In 1879, he became a botany instructor at the Bussey Institute at Harvard University; in the same year he made his first venture into botanical illustration in D.C. Eaton’s Ferns of North America.

In 1882, Faxon was hired by Charles Sargent to manage the Arnold Arboretum’s Library and Herbarium while preparing drawings for Sargent’s Silva of North America, and he remained in that position for the remainder of his life.

During the course of his career, Faxon published over 1,900 botanical drawings, including drawings for Sargent’s Forest Flora of Japan, Trees and Shrubs, and the Manual of Trees of North America. Drawings of 34 plants of Guatemala for The Botanical Gazette are thought to be his best illustrations.