International Botanical Congress in Melbourne this week

There is a huge amount of stuff happening in Melbourne this week as part of the 18th International Botanical Congress. Botanical Artists might be particularly interested in this free talk:

Sister Water Lily meets the Big Bad Banksia Man

Speaker: Dr Peter Bernhardt - Saint Louis University, St Louis, USA
Date and time: Thursday 28 July 2011, 1830 - 2000
Venue: Plenary Hall, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Can a whimsical and largely discarded branch of illustration be used to reinvigorate botanical education? Peter and his co-author Retha Meier review the works of C.M. Barker (England), W. Crane (England), May Gibbs (Australia), J.J. Grandville (France) and M.T. Ross (America). All produced detailed illustrations featuring anthropomorphic flowers, stems and edible plants. The tragic J.I.I. Gerad (a.k.a. Grandville, 1803-1847) began this trend in floral fantasy to amuse a mature audience of sophisticated Parisians but his techniques were assimilated by later author/artists of children's books. Within little more than a century (1847-1952) their combined oeuvre reminded or taught viewers simple, amusing and often visually accurate lessons in plant morphology/identification, phenology, economic botany, plant-animal mutualisms and phytogeography. These drawings, often reinforced botanical information by employing visual puns and satirizing the old, European, 'language of flowers'. We could certainly use a little of this style today with the fundamentals of plant biology taught so infrequently in many countries. In particular, author/illustrator, May Gibbs (1879-1969) developed the art of 'people plants' to introduce generations of Australian children to plant diversity common to southeastern and southwestern Australia.

Peter Bernhardt is a Professor of Biology at and a Research Associate of the Missouri Botanical Garden (St Louis) and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Research in the Bernhardt/Meier laboratory concentrates on flower evolution and the pollination systems of rare and threatened plants in North America, Australia and China. Peter is the author/co-author of 75 reviewed journal articles and four popular books on plant life including 'Wily Violets and Underground Orchids' (1989) and 'Gods and Goddesses in the Garden' (2008). He has a keen interest in how plants have been incorporated as characters in children's literature.

See IBC website for details.