'Botanica Magnifica' Photography, Gallery
Take a look at our slide show of Jonathan Singer's botanic photographs, collected in his book, Botanica Magnifica. The photographs feature rare plant specimens shot on a Hasselblad camera.
Botanists consider Jonathan Singer's Botanica Magnifica to be an invaluable series of endangered botanic profiles, many from deep within the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's private greenhouse; art critics review it as a masterful collection of plant portraits, photographed in low light with an effect that resembles the Old Masters of oil painting.
Compiled in five volumes, the 250 photographs of rare and exotic plants is large in both format and impact. The original edition was limited to 10 copies, hand-bound and designed as a double elephant folio, measuring about 40 by 30 inches (a format that had not been used since Audubon's Birds of America). The book is also available in a comparatively smaller format through Abbeville Press ($135).
Singer says he usually gets the picture with only one shot, on his color-perfect H2D-39 Hasselblad camera. He has been named a Hasselblad Award Laureate. The book includes historic, botanic, and geographic information about each plant, and an introduction by W. John Kress, a Curator of Botany and Research Scientist at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.
Giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis): A native of tropical America, the granadilla flower produces giant green to yellow passion fruits that grow to over one foot in diameter. It grows on a vine, as long as 50 feet in one season. Its Latin name denotes its square stems.
Giant Amazon water lily (Victoria amazonica): Naturally growing in the slow waters of the Amazon, the extraordinary lily blooms at night and releases a wonderful fragrance. The leaves can grow up to nine feet in diameter, and can support almost ninety pounds. The underside of the leaves reveals a network of veins that inspired the design for the famous Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus): Believed to have been cultivated in Naples in the 9th century, the edible globe artichoke is popular for its ornamental and culinary value. The flowers grow to about 3 to 6 inches in diameter.
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanium): Also known as "The Corpse Flower," the blossom of this Sumatra-native releases a putrid odor that attracts carrion beetles, who pollinate the plant. The large inflorescence can grow to over 3 metres (10 ft) tall, and is a popular plant in many botanic gardens.
Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobtrys): A member of the pea family, this tropical vine is a native of the Philippines, where it grows in damp forests. The turquoise flowers grow in groups of 75 or more, clustered like grapes. It is considered an endangered species due to habitat destruction, and a decrease in its pollinator populations.
Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa): Tree peonies were a prized flower in 4th century Chinese gardens, adored for their fragrant, luxurious blossoms. The woody shrub reaches 4 to 10 feet tall, with silken flowers that bloom at 6 to 12 inches in diameter.
The fragile flowers of Globba radicalis Roxb. have been called "Dancing Ladies," for the orientation of petals and anthers that give the effect of delicate movement.
Bronze banana or Taw-nget-pyaw (Musa laterita): The flowering plant is an Asian tropical ornamental species in the banana family. It is native to the Indian subcontinent, and common in parts of Myanmar. The fruits are eaten by birds and mammals, but not humans.
Goldfinger plant (Juanulloa aurantiaca): The vine flowers with light orange blossoms, and grows 3 to 6 feet tall. It is a semi-epiphytic plant, dangling from tropical forest trees in its native habitat of Central and South America. It is a member of the nightshade family, and related to the tomato.
Alpinia boninsimensis Makino: The petal-like stamen only two cell layers thick, which gives the plant its unusual appearance.