Botanical Virginia Exhibit Comes to Jamestown Settlement

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17 of Catesby's hand-colored engravings will be on display through February at Jamestown Settlement. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
Seventeen of Catesby’s hand-colored engravings will be on display through February at Jamestown Settlement. (Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

Jamestown Settlement is debuting a new exhibit on the beauty and variety of Virginia plant life this week curated by the Flora of Virginia Project and featuring 17 hand-colored engravings created from authentic 18th-century watercolor paintings of native flora.

The show, which opened Saturday, is called “Clayton & Catesby: Botanical Virginia.” It draws its name from colonial-era naturalist Mark Catesby and botanist John Clayton.

Catesby, an Englishman who spent seven years in Virginia from 1712 to 1719, collected plants from a stretch spanning the lower James River up to the river’s headwaters in the Appalachian Mountains.

When he returned to England he began producing engravings of his watercolor paintings of the plants, which were later published in “The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.”

Clayton was a contemporary of Catesby and a student of botany who served as the clerk of Gloucester County. During that time, he provided Catesby with dried plant specimens and compiled a catalog of native plants that would later become “Flora Virginica.”

The 17 engravings, which are on loan from the Garden Club of Virginia, will be displayed alongside a 1762 edition of Clayton’s book.

Also on display will be tools used for the study and collection of plants and biographies of both of the exhibition’s namesakes.

During its three-month display period, which runs from Dec. 5 to Feb. 28, the exhibit will present several public programs that will delve deeper into the lives of these remarkable men and the richness of Virginian plant life.

Special lectures are slated for Dec. 10, Jan. 5, Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, while workshops are scheduled for Jan. 14, Jan. 28 and Feb. 25.

Lectures are free with museum admission and workshops are $45 per person. For a complete list of lecture and workshop times and topics, click here.