Featured Drawings from Botanical Wonders

Drawings by Rudolf Blaschka featured in Botanical Wonders: The Story of the Harvard Glass Flowers.

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    Cacao
    Sterculiaceae
    Model 374 (1893)
    R. Blaschka

    Chocolate is made from the seeds of this tropical American native. Rudolf Blaschka studied the complex flowers, which grow on short stalks from the tree trunk. This 1892 drawing, made in Jamaica, illustrates the relationship of the various parts. In “diagram of the dissected flower” (right), “S” and “P” stand for “sepals” and “petals” respectively. The enlarged petals (left) highlight the “2 strong protruding ribs,” with the cup “almost glasslike in transparency.”
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    Rat Pineapple
    Bromeliaceae
    Model 451 (1894)
    R. Blaschka

    This edible pineapple is a perennial monocot that is found throughout tropical America. Rudolf Blaschka observed it in Jamaica a year after he and his father had reproduced models of the larger commercial species, Ananas comosus. The drawing indicates the “white felt” texture of the floral bracts, which are shown in the drawings to the right. The stiff, spiny leaves characteristic of bromeliads are “furrowed” and “shiny.” “The red is composed of many small stripes like the pineapple leaf,” Blaschka wrote.
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    Pipsissewa
    Ericaceae
    Model 629 (1898)
    R. Blaschka

    Like Pyrola in drawing 35, this genus has violet stamens with “white hairs” (upper right). Rudolf Blaschka collected this evergreen perennial in Concord, Massachusetts, on June 30, 1895. The name of this low-growing, somewhat woody plant with dark leaves comes from the Greek for “winter” (cheima) and “to love” (philein). The drawing notes that “the colors of the leaves are 21¨C23a, strong and shiny on top, and underneath light, also shiny.”
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    Saltwort
    Chenopodiaceae
    Model 650 (1899)
    R. Blaschka

    Rudolf Blaschka collected this introduced annual in Nahant, Massachusetts, on July 7, 1895. The plant ash, an important source of alkali salts, was used as a flux in glassmaking to reduce the melting point of the silica. The branching hairy stems have stiff, prickly leaves. Minuscule flowers, without petals, have a five-part calyx and aligned stamens that develop above two small bracts in the leaf axil, as shown in the upper drawings.
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    Yellow Fringed Orchid
    Orchidaceae
    Model 642 (1898)
    R. Blaschka

    On July 15, 1895, Rudolf Blaschka collected this spurred orchid in Virginia. It features a fringed lower petal, which is shown in various views. The drawings to the right of the leaves show the interior structure of the flower. A pair of pollinaria, each of which resembles a string of balloons, contain individual pollen grains in what Blaschka called a “juice like yellowish water glass.” The sticky end of the stipe becomes attached to an insect, which then distributes pollen to other flowers.
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    Fern Tree
    Bignoniaceae
    Model 550 (1895)
    R. Blaschka

    Rudolf Blaschka documented this tropical species from Castleton Gardens, Jamaica, in 1892. He described it as having “very strongly shiny red-violet” tubular flowers with “lips full [of] vertically standing violet hair” and black stems “somewhat shiny like silk.” The curved anthers, sketched as close-ups (bottom right), are placed in the enlarged flattened flower. The pistil has been removed and placed to the right; the showy “tube, white inside” is a sterile filament.
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    Indian Paintbrush
    Scrophulariaceae
    Model 500 (1894)
    R. Blaschka

    “It was a great pleasure to wander around the neighboring grounds and botanize, during which time I found some plants growing wild in great numbers that we at home raise in the garden so carefully. Some examples are . . . Castilleia species with their fiery red bracts.” So wrote Rudolf Blaschka to his parents from San Diego, California, on April 30, 1892. “Long white hairs” cover the stem, he noted, and the leaves are “lightly hairy” to reduce water loss and “somewhat hazy purple.”
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    Sea Fig
    Aizoaceae
    Model 400 (1893)
    R. Blaschka

    These fragrant flowers, described by Rudolf Blaschka as “delicately fuchsia-violet,” develop into edible fruits, which are shown here in cross and longitudinal sections. In a letter to his parents that is dated April 25, 1892, he wrote of “wheat fields, vineyards, rose gardens, and everywhere the rich wild vegetation of blue lupines, delphinium, Mesembryanthemum, and a mass of yellow composites that often give entire hills a lively yellow color.” He collected this specimen in California, where the introduced shrub grows along the seacoast and in salty soils.