News Stories in category: Biological terminology

Rushes: An Introduction

Story posted: 19. July 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Having recently written blogs about the anatomy of grasses and sedges ; this week I’ll be examining rushes.  As with the Cyperaceae and Graminaceae, these common and beautiful plants are frequently overlooked in favour of wild flowers with florid petals and bright colours.  Rushes deserve a closer look.



Hairy Wood rush Luzula pilosa

Anatomy of Rushes:  Overview of the Plant

Rushes are erect perennial herbs, with slender unjointed cylindrical stems (or culm).  Rush stems are always round in cross section. They tend to grow straight and to be tufted…

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Sedges: An introduction

Story posted: 13. July 2018 by Lizzie Harper

I frequently get asked to illustrate plants which many see as a little dull, and one of these familiess is the sedges (Cyperaceae).  Sedges, however, are far from dull but are elegant and beautiful plants.  Perhaps all it takes to make people love them is a little information on their anatomy and diversity?

Like grasses and rushes, they are monocots, but are a distinctly different group of plants.  Here is a beginners guide to the Sedges.  (For a beginner’s guide to the Grasses, please click here ).

Sedge Anatomy



Anatomy of the Common sedge Carex nigra…

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Grasses: An introduction

Story posted: 7. June 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Grasses (Poaceae) are one of my favourite botanical illustration subjects; I adore drawing and painting them.  I have written a blog on my passion for this family of plants before but wanted to take another look at the way grasses are put together, and introduce beginners to the basic anatomy and terminology that’ll help you start to understand these glorious and diverse plants.

Drawing a plant is one of the best ways to begin to understand it, so I hope this crash course in grass anatomy will help.

Anatomy of Grasses:   Overview of the Plant

Grasses have long…

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Botanical Illustration: What's in a name? part 2

Story posted: 26. August 2016 by Lizzie Harper

In the last blog I talked about how vital Latin names are to botanical illustrators, natural history and Sciart practitioners and enthusiasts.  We covered Kingdoms, Phylum, Class, Order and Family.  In this blog we’re looking at the two components of an organism’s Latin name – the genus and the species.

Now we get down to the Latin name as you’ll see it written, a genus name followed by a species name.  This is referred to as the scientific name of an organism.  It is written in italics with the genus capitalised, the species name not capitalised.  You may see Latin names…

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Botanical Illustration: What's in a name? part 1

Story posted: 12. August 2016 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustrators are asked to illustrate a wide variety of plants and animals, and it’s vital that you draw the correct organism!  With so many similar species out there, I can honestly say that I’d be lost if it weren’t for the use of Latin names to pinpoint the living thing you’re illustrating.

So how does this system of naming work?  First, it’s vital to remember that naming things is a very human trait.  We have invented this complicated and detailed format to be able to identify all living things, but it’s by no means a perfect solution.  Latin names are forever…

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Botanical Illustration: Exploring Adventitious Roots

Story posted: 27. June 2016 by Lizzie Harper

In my last blog I mentioned that being a botanical illustrator sometimes involves a fair amount of research, in this case examining different types of root. So natural history illustration and botany go hand in hand, and in researching roots I've realised that the more you learn, the more you find you need to learn.  This blog is about adventitious roots.

Adventitious roots, roots which don’t grow from the base of a plant’s stem but can grow from other parts of the stem or from the leaves, are useful for plants both for nutrient storage and for structural support.  They can also…

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Botanical Illustration: Exploring Root Variety

Story posted: 10. June 2016 by Lizzie Harper

As a botanical illustrator, spending time examining plants and their structures, I’m continually amazed by the variety of forms plants produce.  Take, if you will, the humble “root”.

A “root” is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “The part of a plant which attaches it to the ground or to a support, typically underground, conveying water and nourishment to the rest of the plant via numerous branches and fibres”.

However, the story does not stop there!  There are three main types of root; the fibrous root, the tap root, and the adventitious root.   This blog is a…

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Natural History Illustration: Salmon life cycle

Story posted: 11. September 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Scientific illustration and wildlife art have been combined in a recent job; to illustrate the wildlife of the River Wye for a keen local fisherman.  A main focus has been the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar. Inevitably, in researching these fish I've learnt a little of the key features present in each life cycle stage.

A key resource has been the Atlantic Salmon Trust , where both visual and written references are readily available.

Salmon emerge from eggs in freshwater rivers, such as the Wye.  Until they absord their egg sacs their known as alveolin ,…

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Botanical Illustrator and Natural History illustration: Mosses

Story posted: 8. April 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustration involves drawing subjects that you’re not entirely confident about; and recently I had to complete botancial illustrations of two moss species for The Field Studies Council .

I was lucky enough to find both species growing on my local churchyard wall, but before drawing them up I needed to revise my moss anatomy!

Luckily, many years ago I did a diagram of moss for The Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker so could refer to this.



Moss anatomy by Lizzie Harper, from "The Amateur Naturalist" by Nick Baker

Moss has a complex life…

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Botanical illustration: The Ovary in Botany October 3rd 2014

Story posted: 3. October 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Botanical illustrators and those practising science art have to understand the biological terminology that applies to their subject matter.  All of my illustrations for this blog are taken from The Garden Forage r by Adele Nozedar (publ. 26.03.2015).   Follow the link to see all of them on my Pinterest site .

Following on from September's blog about Basic botanical terms ; this week I'm going to explore the importance of the ovary in knowing what flower you're looking at or illustrating. First, a swift recap of basic botany.

The flower's ovary contains the unfertilized…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 5228

Botanical Illustration: Basic Botany Terms 19th September 2014

Story posted: 18. September 2014 by Lizzie Harper

If you're going to illustrate botanical or natural history specimens, you need to know what you're drawing.  Biology provides words for almost every part of an animal or plant; and although sometimes these terms sound intimidating (many have latin roots so sound unfamiliar) they don't need to put you off.

This blog is an introduction to the basics of botany, so you can tell your corolla from your sepal, and your stem from your root.  Below is an annotated illustration of Lesser spearwort ( Ranunculus flammula ).



Many of these terms will be more than familiar; a leaf,…

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Botanical Illustration: Exploring the achene fruit type May 2nd 2014

Story posted: 2. May 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural science illustration and natural history illustration require you to understand both what your subject looks like, and also the correct words needed to scientifically describe it.  Last week my blog was about fruit type definitions , inspired by some work I did for Rodale's 21st Century Herbal by Michael Balick.  Whilst getting my head around the terminology of fruit types, I realised there's scope for a whole blog about the seemingly humble ACHENE.

The ACHENE is "a small dry indehiscent single-seeded fruit" (Flora of the Birtish Isles, Clapham Tutin and Moore). So…

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Botanical Illustration: Botanical terms for fruit types April 25th 2014

Story posted: 25. April 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Botanical and scientific illustration requires a certain amount of biological knowledge, and this is certainly true when it comes to painting botanical diagrams.  I recently did some illustrations for Rodale's 21st Century Herbal by Michael Balick , and one of these was a diagramatic comparison of fruit types.



This got me thinking about how little I knew about the differences in fruit types, so I thought if I did a blog on the subject I'd be able to learn a bit more, and share what I find out.

I'm going to use the glossary from Flora of the British Isles by…

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Botanical Illustration - Tips on Leaf Shape: Margins, Venation & Position November 1st 2013

Story posted: 1. November 2013 by Lizzie Harper

Further to last week’s blog on illustrating botanical subjects, and the discussion of simple vs compound leaves and basic leaf shape; this week I thought I’d tackle leaf margins, different venation patterns, and key ways that leaves are attached to the stem. The terms discussed are in bold text; the examples are all illustrations I've done over the years; and if you find any mistakes feel free to tell me, I'm not a botanist, just a keen and interested amateur. .

Leaf margin refers to the edge of the leaf.  A smooth edge is called an entire margin.  There are no teeth…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 4    Viewed: 18371

Botanical Illustration - Tips on Leaf Shape: Compound and Simple leaves October 25th 2013

Story posted: 25. October 2013 by Lizzie Harper

I’ve recently completed some botanical illustrations for The 21 st Century Herbal by Michael Balick (published later this year by Rodale ) and several illustrations of leaves, demonstrating different terms, were commissioned.

I think knowing what variations exist in nature helps you to look closer at a subject you’re drawing; so I thought I’d share some of it with you.  The terms discussed are in bold text; the examples are all illustrations I've done over the years; and if you find any mistakes feel free to tell me, I'm no botanist, just a keen and interested amateur.…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 21791

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