Plant from 1491

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

-- (Credit: CAROL WOODIN)It is unlikely that many of us will ever see Phragmipedium kovachii in the flesh. Discovered only seven years ago, the stunning pink orchid grows on inhospitable limestone cliffs in Peru's tropical cloud forest. But visitors will now be able to see the orchid at the world's first gallery dedicated to botanical arts at Kew Gardens in London. The gallery's collection features a depiction of the orchid by Carol Woodin, who travelled to Peru specially to paint the species.

The gallery allows Kew to display a tiny fraction of the art it owns. Its archives contain more than 200,000 items of botanical art, from works by some of the most highly regarded botanical artists in history, such as G D Ehret, an 18th century German water colourist. The oldest item in the exhibition is a plant book from 1491, the Hortus Sanitatis or Garden of Health, which was printed in Mainz, Germany. Its woodcut illustrations combine science and myth, such as the page showing a female mandrake in fruit.

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