The second in a series looking at books which contain superb botanical illustrations.
The Genus Arum by Peter Boyce, paintings by Pandora Sellars. (1993) ISBN: 9780112500858
This is one of the Kew Magazine Monographs, a series of books of incredible quality, both in the information contained and the quality of the paintings. I will cover a few more of these in future posts.
The genus Arum has around 30 species, centred around the Mediterranean but extending out to Central Asia, North Africa and Northern/Western Europe. One species (A. maculatum) is a common wild plant in the UK. They are all summer-dormant and generally flower in spring. They are pollinated usually by carrion flies attracted to the sinister looking spathes and strong aroma of rotting meat or manure or a delightful mix of the two. One species, Arum creticum, has yellow spathes with a pleasant sweet scent and is a good hardy garden plant.
Peter Boyce is THE expert on the Arum family and therefore the technical content of this book is both thorough and informative. For me though, the paintings by Pandora Sellars are the highlight. I am stunned by the way she has captured the velvety sheen of the flower spathes and the high gloss on the leaves. Indeed Pandora Sellars painted leaves with an ability I have not seen matched by anyone else.
Pandora Sellars passed away quite recently in May 2017 at the age of 80. This great tribute to her was written by Katherine Tyrell: https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/news/pandora-sellars-an-appreciation-of-a-great-botanical-artist
Below is a detail from her painting of Arum pictum, alongside a photo of a plant in my own collection. This species is interesting in that it is the only one that flowers in autumn (as the new leaves appear). It is also frequently confused with Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ which is a very hardy garden plant with beautifully patterned leaves. The true Arum pictum is much less cold-hardy. It also smells horrible..
Last time I did one of these book posts I dedicated it to a friend but Arums are:
- Sinister looking
- Smell a bit off
- Attractive largely to carrion eaters, and then only by deception
For these reasons I do not wish to dedicate the post to anyone I like, however nice the paintings are.
So for these reasons I considered, instead, dedicating this post to right-wing politicians and media outlets everywhere…except they simply don’t deserve even this recognition.