Leora Siegel is the Senior Director of the Lenhardt Library, one of the treasures of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Open to the public 7-days a week, its 150,000-volume collection encompasses resources on gardening, botany, plant conservation, and landscape design, in formats from rare books to e-books. Library initiatives focus on public engagement, collections, and collaborations.
The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lenhardt Library has a wonderful rare book collection, and soon it will be able to share some of those rare gems with the world.
Selections from The Language of Flowers collections are being digitized and conserved with a new grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and those selections will be uploaded to the Biodiversity Heritage Library. This work will add to the body of knowledge on the subject of language of flowers, at the intersection of art, botany, and poetry.
Also being digitized is Garden Talk, the Chicago Horticultural Society’s membership magazine that was published from 1945, 1953-2007. Chicago’s gardening trends and fads, techniques, and ecological strategies were all fodder for editorial content. Once digitized, the columns will be available at the Illinois Digital Archives with new grant funding from the Illinois State Library.
Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations on this web page do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Brazil’s native flora has amazing diversity with differing biomes, including tropical rainforest, subtropical forest, tropical savanna, mangrove forest, tropical dry forest, wetland, and savanna.
Of the approximate 400,000 known plant species in the world, 55,000 are endemic to Brazil, and most of these are from the Amazon forest.
Many of the foods we eat (like acai), industrial products we use (rubber tree and mahogany), medicines—even our houseplants in the Chicago region (orchids), depend on plants from this region. The unique flora of this area continues to be threatened by deforestation and urbanization, and plant species are at risk.
Books on display through October 15, 2017, in the Lenhardt Library’s Flora Brasil exhibition depict a plant exploration map, Brazilian aroid, and Brazilian bromeliads. An untitled original artwork by Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx on loan from Longwood Gardens complements our main Joutras Galley exhibition of Marx’s work.
The library exhibition opens with an eighteenth-century map of South America with “the coast of Brazil being corrected” bound into the third edition in English of Voyage to South America: Describing, at Large, the Spanish Cities, Towns, Provinces on That Extensive Continent by Don Antonio de Ulloa and Don George Juan, 1772. Ulloa and Juan explored the region, observing and describing the flora, fauna, geology, minerals, indigenous population, and politics they encountered.
A Brazilian aroid Philodendron cannaefolium (today known as Philodendron ‘Burle Marx’) is the centerpiece with a 24-inch-by-30-inch detailed chromolithograph that is both scientifically accurate and stunning. This 1879 work, Aroideae Maximilianae by Heinrich Schott, features 42 plates with delicate colors and clean lines. Schott was an Austrian botanist who traveled in Brazil from 1817 to 1821. He specialized in Araceae and throughout his career, he named 587 new-to-science species of aroids; by comparison, Linnaeus named six aroid species.
Come also learn about Margaret Mee, who was an exceptional botanical artist, plant explorer, and environmentalist. Four reproductions of Mee’s “Brazilian Bromeliads” are on view. These are from a limited edition set published in Brazil in 1992.
Mee traveled to Brazil often, and went on fifteen botanical expeditions, mainly into the Amazon region. On these expeditions, she discovered several new plant species, painted more than 400 gouache pieces, and kept travel diaries detailing her adventures. Her passion for Brazilian flora coincided with the large-scale commercialization of the Amazon rainforest. She became an outspoken environmentalist, calling attention to the dangerous destruction of the biodiverse region.
Noted Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx cultivated plants that Mee brought back from her expeditions and used them in his landscape designs. Known for his bright and bold color choices, Marx was inspired by Mee’s paintings. Like Mee, he was concerned about the environmental impacts of the commercialization of the Brazilian Amazonian region.
Learn more about Mee, Marx, and Brazilian flora at our free Library Talks on July 16, August 22, and September 12 at 2 p.m. in the Lenhardt Library.
One of my favorite volumes in the Lenhardt Library’s rare book collection (although I love them all) is Autumnal Leaves by Ellen Robbins, published in 1868. Each of the 18 original watercolor paintings of autumn leaves looks so true-to-life that you want to reach out and pick a leaf off the page.
This volume, specifically, the sumac watercolor, will be on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in the American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent exhibition which runs March 1 to May 14, 2017. I’m delighted that an East Coast audience will have the opportunity to share this treasure.
Although we’ll miss the book while it’s away, through the Lenhardt Library’s digitization program, each page of the book is viewable in the Illinois Digital Archives repository.
Winter is the time to curl up by a fire with all the books you didn’t get to this summer—and this year had some fantastic reads in botany and horticulture. But how do you know what to pick up in a sea of books?
Each year at its annual conference, the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL) awards prizes for the best new works in botany and horticulture that contribute to the body of literature in these fields. Not surprisingly, a selection of these award-winning books are available to be borrowed from the Lenhardt Library. Here are our top four picks—find them online, or check them out on-site on your next Garden visit.
Shopping online? Order through our Amazon Smile link; a portion of your purchase is donated to the Garden.
2016 Award for Significant Contribution to the Literature of Botany or Horticulture:
The Curious Mister Catesby: A “Truly Ingenious” Naturalist Explores New Worlds by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliott ; foreword by Jane O. Waring
University of Georgia Press, 2015. (Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book Ser.)
456 p.; 238 paintings, illustrations, photos, and maps
ISBN 9780820347264 (hardcover)
Lenhardt Library call number: QH31.C35C87 2015
2016 Award of Excellence in Botany:
On the Forests of Tropical Asia: Lest the Memory Fade
by Peter Ashton
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in association with the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, 2014
ix, 670 pages; color photos, illustrations, and maps
ISBN 9781842464755 (hardcover)
Lenhardt Library call number: SD219.A84 2014
2016 Award of Excellence in Plant Identification & Field-Guides:
California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide
by Dennis E. Desjardin, Michael G. Wood, and Frederick A. Stevens
Timber Press, 2015
559 pages; color photos
ISBN 9781604693539 (hardcover)
Lenhardt Library call number: QK605.5.C2D47 2015
2016 Award of Excellence in Biography:
James Sowerby: The Enlightenment’s Natural Historian
by Paul Henderson
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2015
336 pages; 150 color plates, 30 halftones
ISBN 9781842465967 (hardcover)
Lenhardt Library call number: QH31.S69H46 2015
CHBL is the leading professional organization in the field of botanical and horticultural information services. It is comprised of librarians who work in botanic garden libraries across North America and in university libraries focused on botany and agriculture. Several Lenhardt Library staff (Leora Siegel, Stacy Stoldt, and Donna Herendeen) have served as CBHL board members in the past—and at present.
Read, play, earn prizes! Kids of all ages are welcome to participate in the Lenhardt Library’s summer reading program at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The Summer Nature Explorer: Reading and Activity Program begins on June 4 and runs through September 5.
With the program, you can encourage the joy of reading and literacy skills in your kids and help reluctant readers enjoy STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities to develop critical thinking skills.
Research has shown that reading 20 minutes per day (or 300 minutes per summer) reduces the “summer slide” and enables students to maintain their reading level during summer vacation.
Here’s how the program works:
Sign up at the Lenhardt Library and receive your Summer Nature Explore: Reading and Activity Log.