Botanical Illustration: Churchyard plants and natural history: Lower plants

Story posted: Friday, 6. February 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history subjects to draw and paint are all around, botanical specimens and animals co-exist with us, and relish the comparative tranquility of the British churchyard.  The Field Studies Council are aware of this, and have recently commissioned botanical illustrations from me for a forthcoming fold out chart.

Lower plants relish the stone and damp of a churchyard.  You can find many ferns across the UK in churchyards and cemeteries, including the Hart's tongue.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator botancial illustration of the harts tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium

Hart's Tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium

In amongst the nooks and crannies of a churchyard wall you can find lots of lower plants; mosses, glorious lichens, and the Common polypody fern.  Although there's some regional variation depending on habitat and substrate, many of these species are ubiquitous.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator botancial illustration of Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes

This Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes is a case in point.  Within two minutes of printing off the species list FSC wanted me to illustrate I'd found and procured a specimen from the churchyard wall opposite my home in Hay on Wye.  It has to be said that St. Marys Church in Hay on Wye is an old an wonderful site, but it still delighted me to be able to find all but one of the species I had to illustrate by just crossing the road.

Hard fern is almost certainly lurking there too, but luckily since I'd painted it for another organisation many years ago, FSC didn't need a repeat illustration and were happy to re-use it.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator botanical illustration of Hard fern Blechnum spicant

Hard fern Blechnum spicant

The last lower plant needing illustrating was a moss typical of churchyards and gravestones.  Now I'm no expert on moss identification, so it took some doing to find out the distinguishing features of two of the commoner wall mosses, namely Grimmea pulvinata and Tortula muralis. Because mosses can be so tricky to i.d. I included details of the fruting capsule and of an individual leaf for each species.

Botanical illustration of Moss Grimmia pulvinata and Tortula muralis by Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator

Graveyard mosses Grimmea pulvinata and Tortula muralis

I look forward to seeing the chart once it's produced, and may well wander round my own local churchyard when the spring comes, seeing ehat multitude of other plants and animals I can spot.

In fact, graveyards are so highly regarded for their wildlife variety and sanctuary that charities such as Caring for God's Acre focus exclusively on this aspect of British wildlife.  And having had a swift look round my own churchyard, I completley understand why!

On another topic entirely, I'm afraid I've had to turn off the "comments" button on my blogs due to spamming.  If you would like to give any comments or feedback, please do so on my Facebook page or Twitter account or email me at  Many many thanks; and apologies.

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