Botanical art book looks 2

The second in a series looking at books which contain superb botanical illustrations.

The Genus Arum by Peter Boyce, paintings by Pandora Sellars. (1993) ISBN: 9780112500858


This is one of the Kew Magazine Monographs, a series of books of incredible quality, both in the information contained and the quality of the paintings. I will cover a few more of these in future posts.

The genus Arum has around 30 species, centred around the Mediterranean but extending out to Central Asia, North Africa and Northern/Western Europe. One species (A. maculatum) is a common wild plant in the UK. They are all summer-dormant and generally flower in spring. They are pollinated usually by carrion flies attracted to the sinister looking spathes and strong aroma of rotting meat or manure or a delightful mix of the two. One species, Arum creticum, has yellow spathes with a pleasant sweet scent and is a good hardy garden plant.

Peter Boyce is THE expert on the Arum family and therefore the technical content of this book is both thorough and informative. For me though, the paintings by Pandora Sellars are the highlight. I am stunned by the way she has captured the velvety sheen of the flower spathes and the high gloss on the leaves. Indeed Pandora Sellars painted leaves with an ability I have not seen matched by anyone else.

Pandora Sellars passed away quite recently in May 2017 at the age of 80. This great tribute to her was written by Katherine Tyrell:

Below is a detail from her painting of Arum pictum, alongside a photo of a plant in my own collection. This species is interesting in that it is the only one that flowers in autumn (as the new leaves appear). It is also frequently confused with Arum italicum โ€˜Pictumโ€™ which is a very hardy garden plant with beautifully patterned leaves. The true Arum pictum is much less cold-hardy. It also smells horrible..

Last time I did one of these book posts I dedicated it to a friend but Arums are:

  • Sinister looking
  • Smell a bit off
  • Attractive largely to carrion eaters, and then only by deception

For these reasons I do not wish to dedicate the post to anyone I like, however nice the paintings are.

So for these reasons I considered, instead, dedicating this post to right-wing politicians and media outlets everywhereโ€ฆexcept they simply don’t deserve even this recognition.


  1. I have had the arum pictum come up in my last garden (I have no idea how, and I didn’t know its name). The first spring it was a huge surprise. It looked stunning but was quickly christened ‘the dog poo flower’ by my young boys because of its stink. It only lasts 2 weeks at the most here in Au and must spread easily since I’m sure I didn’t buy it. It was a beautiful plant though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do like them, I think they look gorgeous. But that smell! We once drove 20 miles to a show with one in the car. Susan has refused to do that again….

      One day I will post a pic of a bizarre and rather phallic one I grow which smells like a mixture of carrion, manure and sour milk and actually makes people gag when they smell it!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oooh that reminds me of the huge one we have here that flowers once every decade or something bizarre. It grows in our botanic gardens and people come from all over to see it. It apparently smells like rotting corpses (might even be called the corpse flower). I will ask my mum and send you a pic! It flowered last year.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. It already exists for books at least! You must of heard about Geronimo Stilton: Kingdom of Fantasyโ€ special scented perfume edition. And there are a few others as well. My son loved them all and I must say me too.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Actually I think it would be a great idea for a gardening book! Imagine if you could choose the flowers to plant in your garden not only according to their looks and needs but also their scents.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! I had to laugh so much at who you’re dedicating this post to, Darren! ๐Ÿ˜‚
    And wow! The paintings you showed us are truly stunning and I’m going to read more about her artwork soon – thanks so much for pointing her out to me, she was a exceptionell artist indeed! Those shinging leaves are incredible. I wonder how she did it…
    I bought some new water colours today (Lukas – do you know the brand?) and am totally giddy with excitement to try them out, hopefully tomorrow! ๐Ÿ˜Š
    Have a lovely day and I look forward to more beautiful botanical books! ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ’•

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for another lovely comment Sarah. I must look and see if she illustrated any of the other books I have. I bought this book largely for the paintings as Arum were not an interest at the time. They are now.
      I don’t know Lukas but then I stick to pencil these days. I do want to try watercolour again, and gouache, but have no time at the moment. Please let is know how you find the Lukas paints๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure, Darren! I enjoy reading your posts every time! It would be great if you find another books with her paintings!
        I would also use pencil if it wouldn’t take me ages to finish a piece! I can be very impatient at times. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The colours are just wonderful to work with – so rich in pigments and almost glowing! Going to share some paintings soon. ๐Ÿ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s