This has been an amazing project to work on, combining my digital paintings with the botanical expertise of Irina Tatarenko at the Floodplain Meadows Partnership and the extensive research carried out by teams in Russia and the UK; check out the reference list for a taste of how much work is behind this. It shows the complex and diverse rooting structures of the species-rich floodplain meadows that are the focus of my PhD research. This work is still ongoing with plenty more species to add to our virtual meadow.
Botanical art is a tradition that dates back generations. A good field sketchbook was the mainstay of botanists before we all had a digital camera in our pockets. Even so, a sketch can still be helpful alongside a digital snap, because subtle features necessary for identification can be missed by a camera. And it can be hard to untangle a rambling plant in a species-rich setting like a floodplain meadow. But you can’t easily photograph what’s going on beneath the soil.
In times past, the illustrations of traveling botanists would have been the only way most people would have been able to see plants from beyond their own area. In more recent years, whilst we’ve become much more mobile as a population, botanical knowledge has declined, with many school children unable to name even common plants.
There are many good reference books for budding botanists to make use of, along with identification apps that are now pretty good, and accessible training courses from organisations like the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI). But that’s just for the parts you can see. What about what’s going on below ground? Many of us now know about the importance of our soils for food production, carbon storage and flood alleviation. And one of the most important things for soil health is having a range of plant species with diverse root systems to create a well-structured and healthy soil.
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