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William Roxburgh Gallery

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Art Commissioned by the author of "Flora Indica; or Descriptions of Indian Plants", 1820

Choose from 92 images in our William Roxburgh collection.


Featured William Roxburgh Image

Adansonia digitata, Willd. (Baobab or Upside-down tree)

Watercolour on paper, no date (late 18th early 19th century). Hand painted copy of an illustration commissioned by William Roxburgh (1751-1815). In his 'Flora indica' Roxburgh describes this plant as a tree which is very scarce in India, and 'probably not a native of Asia'. Roxburgh tells that in the Botanic Garden of Calcutta, where this tree blossoms in May and June, and ripens its seed in the cool season, there is a 25 years old plant of 'Adansonia digitata', with an irregular, short and sub-conical trunk, which is 18 feet in circumference. In a letter sent to Roxburgh the 2nd of July 1802, from Mantolle, in Sri Lanka, General Hay Macdowell notes: 'In my walk last night on the ruins of this once rich and extensive city, called by the natives Mande or Maddoo-ooltum, I chanced to observe a tree whose prodigious magnitude induced me to measure it...fifty feet in circumference, above six feet from the ground, the natives call it Peerig, and from what I have been able to collect, it is not indigenous here.'

© RBG KEW

Featured William Roxburgh Image

Nelumbium speciosum, Willd. (Lotus)

Watercolour on paper, no date (late 18th early 19th century). Hand painted copy of an illustration commissioned by William Roxburgh. In his 'Flora Indica', Roxburgh tells of his familiarity with two 'sorts' of this plant from the coast of Coromandel, one with rose-coloured flowers, the other with white ones, and with a third variety brought from China, with smaller rosy flowers. He describes how they grow in 'such sweet water lakes' and how, on the coast they flower all year. In Bengal they flower during the hot season, April, May and June. Roxburgh writes also about the radical joints which, in old plant, are swelled into tubulosities of various size, '...from them issue many fungous fibres, and from the upper part and the interior part of these tubulosities issue one, two, or more leaves and flowers...'. Roxburgh then reports that the tender shoots of the roots are eaten by the natives, boiled or in their curries. The seeds are eaten raw, roasted and boiled. The natives also use the leaves as plates from where to eat. This beautiful plant, known with their Sanscrit name Padma, is considered holy and often used in religious ceremonies. The specimen here figured is the pink variety

© RBG KEW

Featured William Roxburgh Image

Areca catechu, L. (Betelnut, pinang, areca nut)

Watercolour on paper, no date (late 18th, early 19th century). Hand painted copy of an illustration commissioned by William Roxburgh (1751-1815). Roxburgh reports in his 'Flora Indica': 'Where this tree grows wild I cannot say from my own observation, but it is cultivated in the warmer parts of Asia, and is in flower most part of the year. It is the most beautiful palm we have in India. The seed is usually wrapoped in a wad of betel pepper leaves and chewed, promoting saliva and releasing arecaine, a mild narcotic. A brown dye can also be obtained from this plant

© RBG KEW