DISCOVER A Lost Painting Collection of Florida Wildflowers

A prickly pear by Minna Fernald. Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History

Not long ago botanist Mark Whitten was rummaging through large pull-out drawers in the UF Herbarium searching for tracing paper. But what he found was a long-forgotten trove of 320 Florida wildflower paintings by Minna Fernald. Born in 1860, the Winter Park retiree, wife of a zoologist, presented the beautifully executed watercolors to the university in 1942. Many of the unique Florida plants Fernald documented no longer grow in the wild. Whitten says his impression is that “what Minna Fernald saw was a much more wild and interesting Florida than what it is now.”

The paintings capture the plants’ rich colors and liveliness in a way that botanical samples, dried and drained of color, cannot. The herbarium plans to digitize the paintings and give them a new life online.

Right: Minna Fernald’s scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus) Kristen Grace FMNH

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