Curious Nature

Vintage botanical illustrations, reworked with identifying text and additional folklore (work in progress)

I began work on this series of designs in August 2021, inspired by the concept of “plant blindness”, a phenomenon coined in the United States, where animals are considered more important than plants.

Symptoms are: a lack of recognition of plants as essential components of ecosystems, an understanding of how plants affect our everyday lives, animals are more worthy of care than plants, and an inability to see that plants are more than just background.

The UK doesn’t fare any better. A recent UK study revealed a thousand children looked at pictures of native plants and animals, and 82% did not recognize an oak leaf. Nearly five out of 10 failed to spot a bluebell.

In the survey carried out for the family activity application Hoop, 26% of children said they had little or no interest in nature. A third of parents blamed too much screen time.

The survey comes amid increased awareness among adults of the therapeutic effects of nature. As a result, many people embrace activities like the Japanese practice of “shinrin-yoku” – forest bathing – to facilitate a feeling of well-being.

“Technology is miraculous, but so too is the living world, including the everyday nature with which we share our everyday lives. And this aspect of the world’s wonder seems presently at the margins of many children’s experience,” according to naturalist Robert McFarlane.

There is even a name for the problem: nature-deficit disorder.

Source: World Economic Forum

Crab Apple - Malus sylvestris. Crab apples are associated with love and marriage. It is said that if you throw the pips into the fire while saying the name of your love, and the pip explodes, then the love is true. Apple wood was burned by the Celts during fertility rites and festivals, and Shakespeare references crab apples in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Love’s Labour Lost.

Blackberry - Rubus fruticosus. Folklore warns that it was very bad luck to pick or eat blackberries after October 10th, because the Devil apparently spat on the bushes the previous evening.

Hemlock - Conium maculatum. The poisonous Hemlock has many names: 'bad man's oatmeal', 'scabby hands', 'Honiton lace' and 'devil's blossom'.

Milkwort - Polygala vulgaris. Medieval herbalists prescribed Milkwort to nursing mothers in the belief that it made 'milk more abundant'. This idea came from its Greek name of 'much milk'.