The Art of Plant Evolution

W. John Kress and Shirley Sherwood

The Art of Plant Evolution

W. John Kress and Shirley Sherwood

Distributed for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

320 pages | 200 color plates | 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 | © 2009
Paper $41.00 ISBN: 9781842464175 Published April 2010 For sale in Canada, Mexico, and the USA only

This beautiful mix of art and science offers a breathtaking look at the way that contemporary scientific discoveries are changing our understanding of plants and plant evolution. Nearly one hundred and fifty paintings, by eighty-four artists, are reproduced in full color to present a sweeping overview of the evolution of plants worldwide. The paintings cover a wide range of plants, including ferns, fungi, conifers, algae, mosses, and a rich bounty of flowering plants; accompanying each painting is up-to-date evolutionary information—drawn from recent DNA analysis—plus observations by each of the artists and details about modern plant classification. Written for the nonspecialist, The Art of Plant Evolution is sure to enchant inquisitive green thumbs and gardeners.


Foreword—Sir Ghillean Prance

Preface—Shirley Sherwood


Art meets science

Natural selection and the origin of species

Plant evolutionary relationships and natural classification

How do we know about plant evolutionary relationships?

Evidence from fossils

How do we know about plant evolutionary relationships?

Evidence from DNA sequence data

Co-evolution between plants and animals

The current classification of major groups of plants

The Paintings

Taxonomic arrangement of the paintings

Fungi and plants without seeds






Basal angiosperms

Minor groups


Early diverging eudicots

Core eudicots

Minor groups


More minor groups


Select Bibliography



Review Quotes
Sandra Knapp | American Scientist
"The Art of Plant Evolution showcases the extensive collection of plant paintings amassed by Sherwood and now displayed in rotation in the magnificent new Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The quality and quantity of the paintings takes one’s breath away . . . The book, however, isn’t just a selection of pretty paintings. . . . In a series of introductory chapters, the authors clearly and simply lay out the evidence on which our understanding of plant evolution is based. They talk about phylogenetics, the role of fossils in understanding patterns of evolution, and the coevolution of plants and animals. . . . The paintings themselves are stunning, a testament to the renaissance of botanical art. Most are contemporary and well illustrate that the art of beautifully depicting plants in a scientifically accurate way is far from dead."
Marilyn K. Alaimo | Chicago Botanic Garden

"A celebration of the marriage of plant evolution and art. Eighty-four artists depict in 136 paintings the botanical relationships between plant forms as identified by the most recent research, such as DNA sequencing. In the introduction, distinguished botanist W. John Kress analyzes these evolutionary relationships and the current classification of major plant groups. Art expert Shirley Sherwood describes the backgrounds of individual artists and the significance of each beautiful painting."

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