The Audobon of Botany
It’s the birthday of the botanical illustrator Mary Vaux Walcott who born in Philadelphia on this day.
Gardeners appreciate Mary for her meticulously accurate watercolors of plants and flowers. For this reason, Mary is regarded as the "Audobon of Botany."
Mary began her career as an illustrator one summer after being challenged to paint a rare blooming Arnica. Although her effort was only a modest success, it encouraged her to pursue art. In the pursuit of her art, Mary met Charles Doolittle Walcott. They were both doing fieldwork in the Canadian Rockies, and they found they were equally yoked. They married the following year.
At the time, Charles was the secretary of the Smithsonian; that's how Mary was tapped to develop the Smithsonian process printing technique.
Mary created hundreds of illustrations of the native plants of North America.
Her five-volume set entitled North American Wildflowers showcases the stunning beauty of common wildflowers, many of which are at peak bloom right now.
In addition to her work as a botanist, Mary was a successful glacial geologist and photographer.
She was the first woman to summit a peak over 10,000 feet in Canada when she tackled Mount Stephen. Today Mary even has a mountain named after her in Jasper - Mount Mary Vaux.