The Flower Files

February 1997

The Flower Files

Flower Need some flowers to brighten up the office?

The Agriculture Department's National Agricultural Library, along with the University of Pittsburgh and the Michigan State Cooperative Extension Service, has created an online collection of handpainted images of plants and flowers published in the Curtis Botanical Magazine between 1797 and 1827, including drawings of flower species that have become extinct. The searchable database of technically and aesthetically marvelous prints displays images along with horticultural information about each flower.

The collection ranges from such sweet-sounding flowers as the "Ever-Blowing Rose" and the "Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate" to provocative ones like "Lady of the Night" and "Mother of Thousands" to the tongue-twisting "Fiddle-Leaved Physic-Nut" and the "Hairy Wachendorfia."

University of Pittsburgh Professor Jim Williams, who managed the technical side of putting the collection on-line, says the demand for the collections was so high at the National Agricultural Library(NAL), it was necessary to put the slides on the Internet to be available to the world.

"The NAL maintains enormous collections of slides that are important to entomologists and biologists," Williams says. "Even people who design wallpaper go there because they want to see the flowers to design flowered patterns."

If you have a color printer, the hand painted flowers would make great wall hangings. You might, however, want to avoid the other photo collection on the web site--a database of plant diseases and pests like the not-so-pretty "Wooly alder aphid."

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