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Plant Portraits (Weeds to Wildflowers)

Updated: Feb 1

In May of 2021 I was commissioned by the Miami nonprofit, Bound by Beauty to paint some of the most common Florida native plant butterfly hosts, for a total of 17 illustrations! The list of plants was compiled by biologist and plant researcher Steven Woodmansee, who presented it to the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. Inspired by the list, this project was dreamed up by artist and director of Bound by Beauty, Mary Benton.

These species are culturally known as weeds. They appear in lawns, tenaciously sprouting from sidewalks or in manicured exotic landscaping seemingly from nowhere. This also means that they are the most accessible of our native species.

Not only that, but the chosen species also

host butterflies, showing that there is magic even in the weeds you step over daily. BbB's goal of this project is to "inspire you to transform your garden into a beautiful sanctuary for the important native flora and fauna of South Florida".

I had considered myself knowledgeable about native plants before but these species were totally new to me, and, they were sprouting just feet from my front door!! The project brightened the world around me as I started to see these plants everywhere I went. It was the native plant education that I needed as a child, to learn to appreciate and feel connected to the world around me. I love that BbB is doing that for kids and adults now.

Bound by Beauty used these illustrations to create a free field guide and educational material, and they are part of their ongoing outreach and programing. For inquiries about these images or the use of them, contact Bound by Beauty.

The field guide, posters, and flash cards are available as a free downloads on BbB's website:

About starting the project, Mary Benton writes:

"If people could be made to see the beauty of the flower that provides sweet nectar to bees and small butterflies, or the serrated leaves that the caterpillars of the Dainty Sulphur butterflies find so tasty, if they could marvel at how nature ensures this plant's survival with its hooked seeds that hitch a ride on every passerby, then Bidens alba, or Spanish needle, would no longer be viewed as a weed to eradicate with a chemical that poisons our world."


The process of creating these paintings was also very meaningful. I went on excursions to find each one, and with the exception of a few, was able to work from my own references and experiences with the plants. I got lots of help in locating each species from BbB, members of the Rebel Botanist Gang, members of the Florida Native Plant society, and Steve Woodmansee. It was as much a scavenger hunt as an art project, and so much fun! (Images: May Benton's photo of me taking reference photos of Cheesy Toes, my photograph of the plant, and the final watercolor illustration.)

All the illustrations were completed in October 2022. They include Fogfruit, Cheesy Toes, Biden's Alba, Water Hyssop, Wireweed, Corky Stem Passionvine, Florida Pellitory, Spurred Butterfly Pea, Virginia Pepperweed, Common Blue Violet, Hairy Cowpea, Purple Thistle, This Paspalum, St. Augustine Grass, Downy Milkpea, Sensitive Partridge pea and finally, Sicklepod.

Prints for sale

Limited edition giclée prints are available here. They are printed on watercolor paper with a hand-torn deckled edge. Since they are a little labor intensive to produce, they are each a very small edition of 25 or less. A portion of proceeds goes to support BbB.

The deckled edges of the paper looks good when "float" framed, or framed above the mat so the edges show. It helps to accentuate the delicacy of the paper in a way that matting doesnt.

Originals for sale

All 17 illustrations are for sale through my web shop, here! They are all professionally "float" framed. The first half of the series is in dark brown wood frames, and for the second half I decided to switch it up and do light wood frames.

See all 17 illustrations below (click to expand):

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