Madagascar: Plants & Insects
Watercolors by Artists of the Mary L. Harden School of Botanical Illustration
February – May, 2023
This exciting new botanical art exhibition features original paintings of plants and pollinators of Madagascar. In this fifth exhibit of paintings by Mary Harden and her students, the artists wish to draw attention to and create appreciation of this unique and endangered habitat.
Over 20 different artists who have studied art under Mary Harden created these detailed and vibrant paintings of the sometimes surprising, often oddly beautiful plants from Madagascar. Plants illustrated include succulents that have made their way into the popular nursery trade such as “Firesticks” Euphorbia and several Kalanchoe varieties. The exhibit also includes paintings of insect pollinators, especially butterflies and moths, displaying colors and patterns that defy imagination. Weird, wonderful, and fascinating, the illustrations in this exhibit are meant to stir the imagination and to move the viewer to help protect the flora and fauna of the threatened island of Madagascar that has been called “the eighth continent” because of its biodiversity.
The artists of the Mary L Harden School of Illustration have been working on this collection since mid-2020 in anticipation of a fundraiser for Dr. Patricia Wright, distinguished lemur expert and founder of two conservation organizations in Madagascar: Centre ValBio and the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments.
Madagascar, A Place like No Other
The island of Madagascar is its own unique world. It is the world’s 4th largest island and has 5% of the world’s unique species. It became an island over one hundred million years ago after it separated from the super-continent Gondwanaland. Over millions of years, its flora and fauna evolved in their environments of rainforests, deciduous woodland, and arid deserts.
Around 83% of Madagascar's vascular plants are found only on the island. These endemics include five plant families, 85% of the worlds known approximately 900 orchid species, around 200 species of palms, and such emblematic species as the traveler's tree, six species of baobab and the Madagascar Periwinkle. At present, Madagascar is facing many seemingly insoluble problems. Over 90% of the forests are gone. Almost all Lemur species are endangered, many critically. There is persistent drought particularly in the Southwest part of the island. Starvation makes people move to new areas damaging ecosystems.
Madagascar has recently been declared a Biological Hotspot meaning it is an ecologically unique region that is exceptionally rich in irreplaceable species that must be preserved.
Stewardship for Our Planet
Appreciation of the natural world is essential to the preservation of our planet.
The flora of Madagascar consists of more than 12,000 species of plants, as well as an unknown number of fungi and algae. Most of these have not been studied and investigated and could represent potential new sources for the development of human pharmaceuticals. One plant, the Madagascar Periwinkle, has already yielded two anticancer drugs, Vinblastine and Vincristine.
With the art and this exhibit, our botanical art class wishes to introduce you to some of the strange and wonderful plants and insects from this far away country.