Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Revealed: the first ever flower, 140m years ago, looked like a magnolia


File 20170731 22181 1le97p4
Hervé Sauquet & Jürg Schönenberger
Mario Vallejo-Marin, University of Stirling
Although most species of plants on Earth have flowers, the evolutionary origin of flowers themselves are shrouded in mystery. Flowers are the sexual organs of more than 360,000 species of plants alive today, all derived from a single common ancestor in the distant past. This ancestral plant, alive sometime between 250m and 140m years ago, produced the first flowers at a time when the planet was warmer, and richer in oxygen and greenhouse gases than today. A time when dinosaurs roamed primeval landscapes.
But despite the fact dinosaurs went extinct 65m years ago we have a better idea of what an Iguanodon looked like than of how the ancestral flower was built.


The oldest flowering fossil, a 130m-year-old aquatic plant found in modern day Spain. Gomez et al / PNAS

This is partly because these first flowers left no traces. Flowers are fragile structures that only in the luckiest of circumstances can be transformed into fossils. And, as no fossil has been found dating back 140m or more years, scientists have only had a limited sense of what the ultimate ancestor would have looked like. Until now.
A major new study by an international team of botanists has achieved the best reconstruction to date of this ancestral flower. The research, published in Nature Communications, relies not so much on fossils as on studying the characteristics of 800 of its living descendant species.
By comparing the similarities and differences among related flowering plants, it is possible to infer the characteristics of their recent ancestors. For example, because all orchid species have flowers in which one half is the mirror image of the other (bilateral symmetry), we can suppose that their ancestor must have had bilateral flowers. By comparing those recent ancestors to each other it is then possible to go a step further back in time, and so on, until eventually we reach the base of the flowering plants’ family tree.


Orchids are symmetrical. Joanna Dineva

So what did it look like?

In some respects, the original flower resembles a modern magnolia: it has multiple, undifferentiated “petals” (technically tepals), arranged in concentric rings. At its centre there are multiple rows of sexual organs including pollen-producing stamens and ovule-bearing ovaries. It is hard to resist the temptation to imagine ancient pollinators crawling in this flower, collecting pollen grains while unknowingly helping the plant to produce seeds.


The ancestor of magnolia. And oak trees, grass, tomatoes, daffodils, and much more. Hervé Sauquet & Jürg Schönenberger

A controversial sex life

The new study helps to settle the controversy about whether early flowers had separate sexes, or whether both male and female reproductive organs were combined in the same flower. Previous evidence pointed to different answers. On the one hand, one of the earliest diverging lineages of flowering plants, represented nowadays only by a rare shrub from the Pacific island of New Caledonia called Amborella, has flowers that are either male or female. On the other, most modern species combine both sexes in the same flower.


All living flowers ultimately derive from a single ancestor that lived about 140m years ago. Hervé Sauquet & Jürg Schönenberger

The authors of the study settle the question and show that the ancestral flower was a hermaphrodite. This means that early flowering plants could reproduce both as a male and a female. Combined sexes can be advantageous when colonising new environments as a single individual can be its own mate, and indeed many plant species colonising remote oceanic islands tend to be hermaphrodite. Maybe the combination of sexes helped early flowering plants to outcompete their rivals.

The devil’s in the detail

Despite the apparent similarity with some modern flowers, their ultimate ancestor has a few surprises up its sleeve. For example, botanist have long thought that early flowers had floral parts arranged in a spiral around the centre of the flower as can be seen in modern species such as the star anise.
The new reconstruction, though, strongly suggests that early flowers had their organs arranged not in a spiral, but in series of concentric circles or “whorls”, as in most modern plants. The early flower had more numerous whorls, however, suggesting flowers have become simpler over time. Paradoxically, this simpler architecture may have given modern plants a more stable base upon which to evolve and achieve more complex tasks such as sophisticated interaction with certain insects as in orchids, or the production of “flower heads” made of dozens or hundreds of simpler flowers as in the sunflower family.
The ConversationAlthough now we have a good idea of what one of the earliest flowers may have looked like, we still know little about how that flower came to be. The detailed steps leading to its evolution are unknown. Perhaps we will have to wait for the discovery of new fossil flowers spanning the gap around 250m-140m years ago, before we can understand the very origin of what is the most diverse sexual structure on the planet.
Mario Vallejo-Marin, Associate Professor in Evolutionary Biology, University of Stirling
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Interview with Daleen Roodt for Wild Magazine


Inside the making of Wild’s botanical illustrations
Translating the beauty of South Africa’s botanical species into works of art for Wild magazine is a painstaking process. After much research, and countless hours of precise strokes, Daleen Roodt’s paintings come to life. By Arnold Ras

Click here for the full interview and video.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Composition of Composite Paintings - Lecture by Jenny Hyde-Johnson: 29 July 2017

Date: 29 July 2017
Time: 09h30
Venue: Branemark Institute, Rochester Place, 173 Rivonia Road, Morningside, Jhb
Cost: R100
RSVP: Ingrid Howes tajana@howes.co.za

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Wild Flowers & Pollinators Exhibition - view BAASA artists paintings online


If you do not live in Cape Town, or are not able to get to this exhibition, take time to view some of the BAASA artists' paintings online at this link.


Friday, 28 April 2017

Wild Flowers and Pollinators Exhibition - Irma Stern Museum


An exhibition titled, Wild Flowers and Pollinators, will be held at UCT Irma Stern Museum from 13 April until 3 June. It will feature loans of botanical art of historical importance selected from Kirstenbosch’s Compton Herbarium and the University of Stellenbosch’s JS Gericke Library, seldom or never previously displayed. A contemporary component of work for sale will be provided by members of the Botanical Artists Association of Southern Africa, (BAASA), which range in scale from small paintings of birds and butterflies to an innovative floral scroll measuring eight metres.

Most of the loans date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The highlight is a set of plates by Ethel May Dixie painted in gouache and watercolour for Rudolf Marloth’s “The Flora of South Africa” on loan from the University of Stellenbosch. This pioneering publication with its richly coloured illustrations was commissioned in 1905 by Florence Phillips and issued in four volumes between 1913 and 1932. Other contributing artists represented include Florence and Emily Thwaits, Esther Smith and Peter McManus.

A complementary programme of events has been arranged, inspired by the natural world depicted in the paintings. Visit the website www.irmasternmuseum.org.za for details.

A pop up tearoom and walkabouts will be available each Wednesday from 10.30am until 12.30pm.

Curator Mary van Blommestein: “It is such a wonderful opportunity to be inspired and see our magnificent flora and some remarkable pollinators through the eyes of superb botanical artists from yesteryear and today”.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dead Leaves

Willie Schlechter Course in Gauteng - 07 to 09 April 2017

The theme of 'Dead Leaves' was perfect for this time of the year as autumn has set in to Gauteng.


We were asked to focus on putting in layer upon layer of neutrals to build up the form. Some beautiful colours were mixed, but Payne's Grey was definitely banned from the class (as it should be from all paint palettes).

Willie is a very patien​t teacher coaxing the best out of each artist. It was a good exercise for most of us to slow down and focus on form and fine details. We did not all complete our one leaf during the three days, but it was a wonderful fun time in the studio.

Gill

The Group with Willie

All the projects

Discussion time


The success of this workshop was the result of ​everyone's positive participation​, which is​ the recipe that makes a workshop of this nature a very happy and enjoyable learning experience.

Above all a very big thanks to Gill who remains the driving force and commitment to the art and our ongoing botanical journey to personal perfection. ​She is the person who does all the ground work in making gem moments like this happen. Thank you Gill​.

Ingrid

A happy vibe


Monday, 10 April 2017

Painting the Veld - A botanical artist’s contribution to preserving African wilderness

This article used with permission of the American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA), copyright 2017, ASBA. 

STORY BY Jenny Hyde-Johnson
SERIES COORDINATOR Gillian Rice

 Daily strolls from her studio in the Malmani Nature Reserve, South Africa, inspire Jenny Hyde-Johnson’s work. She grew up on the outskirts of Johannesburg with an abundance of wildlife and indigenous flora on the doorstep. Hours rambling through the surrounding veld offered an opportunity to study plants, birds, and insects up close and nurtured her life-long love of nature. Following a 25-year career in graphic design, Jenny now paints full-time the flora and fauna of South Africa. Her detailed botanical paintings won gold medals at all three Kirstenbosch Biennales she entered (2006, 2008, and 2013), and her 2008 pieces were named Best in Show. Jenny’s work was selected for the Hunt Institute’s 15th International Exhibition. Several private collectors, including Shirley Sherwood, own her paintings. Says Jenny: “My aim is to capture the rich tapestry of nature, habitat, light, posture, and jizz; to portray the very essence of organisms, their symbiosis, and the interconnectedness of life. So many subjects, so little time…”

Parinari capensis subsp. capensis with seed dispersal via single striped mice (amongst others), 12 x 20 in, gouache on paper, ©2008, Jenny Hyde-Johnson. This is one of Southern Africa’s underground trees that populated the earth at the time of the dinosaurs and before grasses had evolved. I love to show habitat as this is what shaped and nurtured the plant into what it is when I painted it.


PANTING, I HURRY UP THE LAST SECTION OF NARROW DIRT PATH and crest the hill. I suppress a gasp at the magnificence of the view opening up before me. No matter how many times I come this way, the gorgeous unspoiled beauty, stretching from these gorges of Leeuwenkloof many miles to the majestic Magaliesberg mountains beyond, never ceases to amaze and delight my soul.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

BAASA Gauteng AGM: Honorary Life Membership Awarded to Gillian Condy & more - photos

At the BAASA Gauteng AGM, held on 11 March 2017, Gillian Condy was awarded a certificate for Honorary Life Membership of BAASA. She was also presented with a gift of beautiful hand-crafted Gingko biloba leaf silver earrings.

Gill receiving her award certificate from Helene Joubert

Proudly wearing her new earrings

​From Gill: I wish to express thanks to the three regional committees for supporting my nomination for Honorary Life Membership of BAASA, which was presented on Saturday, along with some beautiful Gingko leaf silver earrings. Thank you Helene, for organizing them, and you, the BAASA members, for something I have desired for some time. I feel very honoured.


A new committee was elected. Helene Joubert stood down from the committee after many years of dedication to committee work. Thank you, Helene, and we wish you health and happiness as you find more time to paint. Welcome to two new committee members, Gwenda Caplan & Jax Mahaffey; thank you for making yourselves available. Not to mention a special thanks too, to those who have already served on the committee and given up so much of their time to help out. The Reluctant Chairman and Treasurer had their arms twisted to serve another year on the committee - you are very special and deserve a special thanks, so "Thank You!".

From lt to rt: Ronelle Oosthuizen (Newsletter & Graphics), Jackie Hugo (Secretary), Gwenda Caplan & Ingrid Howes (Events), Gill Condy (Reluctant Chairman), Mary Jones (Reluctant Treasurer), Margie Firer & Jax Mahaffey (Events).

Petro Lemmer, a botanist with an incredible knowledge of the flora of Gauteng, gave a most engaging talk on Spirals in Nature and showed us places where we never imagined they exist.

Guest speaker Petro Lemmer.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Remarkable Mrs Delany

Gloriosa Superba (Hexandria Monogynia), formerly in an album (Vol.IV, 96) Collage of coloured papers, with bodycolour and watercolour, on black ink background by Mary Delany (from the British Museum Collection).
Mary Delany began making paper collages, or ‘paper mosaicks' as she called them in 1771, at the age of 72. The idea came to her while staying with her companion, Margaret Bentinck, duchess of Portland, at Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire. She had noticed the similarity of colour between a geranium and a piece of red paper that was on her bedside table. Taking up her scissors she imitated the petals.

Her collages were botanically precise and correct, made from paper that she often dyed herself, and were mounted on a black background. She went on to create almost 1000 paper mosaicks up until her eyesight began to fail at the age of 83. These collages were bequeathed to the British Museum.

In addition to her collages she was also a keen gardener, a talented embroiderer and a tireless letter writer. Her art included oils, watercolours and pen-and-ink landscapes, with many of the latter housed at the National Gallery in Ireland.
Mesembrianthemum, Aureum Solandri, formerly in an album (Vol.V, 78). 1780 Collage of coloured papers, with bodycolour and watercolour, on black ink background by Mary Delany (from the British Museum Collection)


See more of the collection at the British Museum Online here.
Read more about this remarkable artist here.


Monday, 27 February 2017

"Ageless" Exhibition: RUST-EN-VREDE GALLERY

Some of our BAASA Western Cape members will be exhibiting at the RUST-EN-VREDE GALLERY.
Please support them by attending the opening tomorrow 28 February 2017 or visiting the exhibition that is on until 22 March 2017.





Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Who Was She?

Don't forget: A documentary film 'The Remarkable Miss North', about botanical artist Marianne North, is to be shown at The Old Mutual Hall, Kirstenbosch, Cape Town on Thursday 02 March 2017 at 10:30am. For more details please see WESTERN CAPE 2017 CALENDAR.

It will also be shown in Johannesburg on Saturday 06 May at the Branemark Institute, Rochester Place at 10:00am. For more details please see GAUTENG 2017 CALENDAR.


If you cannot view the video click here to view it on BBC online.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Feeling stuck?


http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/collection/ColorOurCollections

Can't get going with your submission for the Worldwide Botanical Art exhibition? Why not download a colouring book from the Biodiversity Library, get out your coloured pencils and do a bit of colouring-in to get your mojo back. If nothing else you're sure to find it therapeutic.

Or use the line drawings to create your own practice sheet and splash away with your paints with gay abandon for a while. It's sure to get your creative juices back on track again.

Have fun!

Friday, 3 February 2017

2017 Botanical Art Drawing Courses at SANBI Pretoria with Gillian Condy

Download pdf version of this document here.
Diospyros whyteana from Flowering Plants of Africa (SANBI publication)

The South African National Biodiversity Institute will run a number of three day botanical art drawing courses at the National Herbarium in Pretoria.

Dates:                    Thursday 23rd March – Saturday 25th March
                              Thursday 27th April – Saturday 29th April (27th is a public holiday)
                              Thursday 2nd November – Saturday 4th November
Venue:                    The National Herbarium Lecture Hall, Pretoria Botanical Gardens,
                              2 Cussonia Avenue, Brummaria, Pretoria.
Cost:                      R750.00 
Times:                   1st day, 9.30 for 10.00 until 16.00
                              2nd and 3rd days 9.00 – 16.00

Presenter: The courses will be presented by Gillian Condy, the resident botanical artist at the National Herbarium. She has held this position for over 30 years and is an experienced teacher. Gillian is one of the founders of the Botanical Artists Association of southern Africa, BAASA, and is an active freelance artist, having participated in over 180 group exhibitions worldwide. Her work is represented in some major corporate collections, including the Highgrove Florilegium, the Hunt Institute in Pittsburg, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Sydney Botanic Gardens Florilegium, the Shirley Sherwood Collection and Brenthurst Library. She has illustrated a number of books and designed 18 sets of stamps for Botswana and South Africa.

For further information and bookings, please call Gillian Condy on 012 843 5052 or
E-mail g.condy@sanbi.org.za,  Fax. 086 555 9460.
A list of art materials will be supplied on reservation of a place.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Botanical artists should be 'Plant Hunters' too

Hanging Black Stick Lily (Xerophyta longicaulis) (Illustration: Gillian Condy)
The impression that animals and insects are intrinsically more interesting than plants is probably universal. After all, plants are static and ‘boring’ while the rest of the natural world seems dynamic and enthralling.
“Think again,” urges Neil Crouch. “You may be under an illusion created by a condition known as ‘plant blindness’.” The term ‘plant blindness’ was first introduced in 1998 by Wandersee and Schussler after years of discussion, literature searching, investigation and reportedly, ‘a fair amount of trepidation.’ They defined plant blindness broadly, including ‘the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment, leading to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs’.
Plant blindness also comprises an ‘inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features’ of plants and ‘the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration’. (Source: BioScience)
The above excerpt, from 'The Plant Hunter: An interview with Prof Neil Crouch' (available to read in the Kloof Conservancy's latest bi-annual magazine) should inspire us all to get out of our studios and into the wild so we too can learn about and see for ourselves the real story behind the plants we paint. Just one such artist is Gillian Condy, who has had the privilege of doing this over the course of her career with SANBI. Some of her paintings have been used to illustrate this most interesting interview.

To read the full interview click here.


Thursday, 26 January 2017

NYTimes.com: A Pioneering Woman of Science Re-Emerges After 300 Years


Trilobites

A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years

By JOANNA KLEIN
Maria Sibylla Merian captivated Europeans with her studies of insects, only to later have her work largely dismissed. Now, her findings are being celebrated again. Read more...........
Or, copy and paste this URL into your browser: https://nyti.ms/2kkX4fW

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Come and See 'The Remarkable Miss North'

APOLOGIES FOR MIXING THE DAYS OF THE WEEK EARLIER. PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT IS ON THURSDAY 2nd MARCH Not Tuesday 2nd.

A documentary film 'The Remarkable Miss North', about botanical artist Marianne North, is to be shown at The Old Mutual Hall, Kirstenbosch, Cape Town on Thursday 2nd March 2017 at 10.30am.

Jack Andrews, the person who initiated the project, will talk about the process behind the film.

Tickets will be sold at the door at R50 each with proceeds going to BAASA WC.

There will also be a lucky draw for a copy of the DVD.





'The Remarkable Miss North', presented by Emilia Fox, reveals the unknown story of Marianne North, one of the most prolific botanical artists of the Victorian age. Unbound by social convention, this Victorian rebel embarked on a project that changed the face of botanical research. She dedicated her life to painting the world’s plants in the wildest of places; an artistic legacy that remains as mesmerising today as it was in 1882 when her gallery opened at Kew Gardens.

In this one-off documentary, we unveil the life and times of this extraordinary woman whose passion for plants has established her as one of the most important female botanists of all time. The film was featured on BBC4 under the title 'Kew's Forgotten Queen'.


Monday, 23 January 2017

Beginners Botanical Art Course - BAASA Western Cape


Contact Wendy Burchell (wendyjburchell@gmail.com) AND Willie Schlechter (schlechterw@gmail.com) for booking and banking details. Payment of your booking will secure your place and you will receive further details on equipment etc later.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Book Launch Cape Town 'The Amaryllidaceae of Southern Africa'

This is for those of you who are still on holiday in the Cape, for those who live in the Cape and for those who have friends who live in the Cape. Please feel free to forward this invitation to anyone you think might be interested.

Click here to view pdf version of invitation