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Illustration: Wing-podded sophora Sophora tetraptera. Link to image information
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A Gardener's Delight: Curtis's Botanical Magazine

By Marcia Wood
September 27, 2002

Elegant watercolors of hundreds of flowers--from the familiar to the unusual--enliven the pages of a historic British gardening journal called Curtis's Botanical Magazine. The National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Md., holds one of the most complete collections of this periodical, which has been published continuously since 1787.

The library has made the first 26 volumes of the journal available on the World Wide Web at:

The magazine was founded by William Curtis, a self-taught botanist who wanted to keep avid gardeners in the British Isles well informed about the impressive array of flowering plants that could flourish in their gardens and greenhouses. The magazine's detailed, accurate and delightful illustrations are each accompanied by a narrative about the plant's origin and care.

Some issues feature plates of less-common plants such as crimson monarda, hairy wachendorfia, sweet-scented tritonia and winged-podded sophora. Others display plants with picturesque or amusing names like broad-lipped purple side-saddle flower, cobweb houseleek, melancholy toad-flax and warty St. John's wort.

In William Curtis' era, the illustrations in his publication were among the best means available for professional horticulturists and hobbyist gardeners to learn about new plants that were being brought to England from throughout the British Empire and other places around the globe. Today, researchers can log onto the library-hosted web site to learn more about horticultural trends. Home gardeners can visit the site to find the perfect accent for a shady path or sunny flower bed.

An article in the September 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine tells more. View it on the World Wide Web at:


The National Agricultural Library is part of the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

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