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Picture: Pan American strawberry. Link to picture information.

Pomological Watercolors Depict Beauty and Detail

By Marcia Wood
August 31, 2000

A treasure trove of more than 6,000 splendid watercolors of apples, blackberries, cherries, grapes, persimmons and other fruits is safeguarded in the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection. This array of original prints and related materials is one of the treasures of the National Agricultural Library, which is managed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service at Beltsville, Md.

The collection makes up one of the world's most unique holdings of late 19th- and early 20th-century American botanical illustrations. Described as a "priceless but little known legacy for all Americans," many of these beautiful drawings resulted from USDA scientists' need to depict new varieties that they had developed, or had gathered during overseas plant-collecting expeditions.

Many of the prints were featured in early USDA publications, including bulletins and circulars for farmers, as well as annual reports. Today, the drawings are a boon to horticulturists, historians, artists and publishers, according to Susan H. Fugate, head of special collections at the National Agricultural Library. Fugate said these specialists--and others--rely on the illustrations as an invaluable source of information about the history of fruit culture in the United States.

Today, horticultural research continues to be a key part of the USDA research mission carried out by scientists in the Agricultural Research Service. For more information on ARS research programs that affect horticulture, see the list of "Crop Production, Product Value and Safety" national programs at:

Examples of the USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection can be viewed at the National Agricultural Library's website, located on the World Wide Web at:

In addition, 10 of the watercolors are printed in the September issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Contact: Susan H. Fugate, Head, Special Collections, ARS National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-5876, fax (301) 504-7593,