Florilegium: highlighting rainforest species at risk

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Above: Brachychiton aceriflorius, Lauren-Sahu-Khan, ©Beverly Allen

Botanic Gardens Sydney is once again highlighting the importance of biodiversity and the beauty of trees.

The Florilegium Society was formed in 2005 to create a florilegium, a collection of contemporary botanical paintings of plants in the living collections of the Botanic Gardens of Sydney. The society’s latest exhibition will open tomorrow, 5 April at The Garden Gallery in the newly refurbished Robert Brown Building at the RBGS and be on display until 5 May 2024.

This exhibition will focus on the impact of climate change and plant pathogens on rainforest species and increased human activity leading to habitat loss and fragmentation of rainforests.


Alphitonia excelsa, Angela Lober, ©Beverly Allen

As well as the new paintings of rainforest species and relevant works from the existing collection the content will include an introduction to The Florilegium Society and its previous projects and a focus on botanical illustration at the National Herbarium of New South Wales including some of the exquisite early twentieth century works by Margaret Flockton and more recent illustrations by Lesley Elkan and Catherine Wardrop.

The species painted by the artists for the exhibition include the rare, the common and overlooked – represented in the exhibition are Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia (Red Boppel Nut), a threatened species; Brachychiton acerifolius (Flame Tree), a key structural species in the Big Scrub; and Alphitonia excelsa (Red Ash or Soap Tree), a rainforest tree which is a food plant for the caterpillars of the small green-banded blue butterfly (Psychonotis caelius). All will be impacted by climate change.

The Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens Inc is a self-funded, voluntary organisation, endorsed by the Trust. The word 'florilegium', literally a gathering of flowers, was first used in 1590 to describe a publication that focused on the beauty of the plants rather than their medicinal value. Florilegia flourished from the 17th century to the late 19th century and they portrayed collections of rare and exotic plants. 


Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia, Beverly Allen ©Beverly Allen

The modern florilegium seeks to record plants in gardens of botanical and historic significance or creating collections which highlight the diversity of their respective countries’ flora or of those that are now rare and endangered.

The original paintings and their copyright are gifted by the artists to the Trust and held in the Daniel Solander Library in the National Herbarium of New South Wales.

See The Florilegium: Rainforest Species at Risk, 5 April – 5 May 2024 at The Garden Gallery, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
(Enter via Reception, Mrs Macquaries Rd), Royal Botanic Garden Sydney 

Learn more at https://www.botanicgardens.org.au/whats-on/florilegium-rainforest-species-risk



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