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Characteristic of botanical art is the realistic rendering of plants by accurately depicting plant structures and their details. An understanding of botanical art requires some familiarity with both botanical structures and terminology.

The most important structure to understand is the the basic flower. Because of their variety and great beauty, flowers dominate in botanical art, and knowledge of their anatomy is necessary in order to render them accurately.

Below is an example from the exhibit of a flower of Yucca brevifolia by C.E. Faxon (Exhibit Item #19). Many of the structures seen in the diagram above can also be seen in Faxon's drawing: the stamens surrounding the pistil, the ovules inside the ovary, and outer corolla. In the case of the yucca (and many other plants), the petals and the sepals are fused and are called tepals.

Another example from the exhibit is the flower of Eschscholzia california by William H. Hooker (Exhibit Item #2). The dominant feature is the bright yellow corolla (petals) that surround the male and female structures. There are numerous anthers (the pollen-bearing structures) that encircle the female pistil that has 4 graceful lobes rising above the anthers.

The flowers of the legume family that can se seen in the Section VI of the exhibit have specialized petals that form a uniquely shaped flower. Below is a drawing of Dalea frutescens by Kim Ratelle-Collins and Kathrine Swalwei (Exhibit #90). As can be seen in the first drawing, there is a large petal at the top of the flower that is called the banner. On either side of the banner are two petals called wings. These petals surround the two bottom petals that are fused and are called the keel. In the bottom drawing, the petals have been removed to reveal a bundle of stamens and a slender pistil.

These are a few basic examples of flower anatomy. Throughout the exhibit many variations of these structures can be seen, and some of the flowers do not look at all like what we expect a flower to be. The anatomy of the cactus flower is examined on the following page.