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A Botanical Mystery Solved, After 146 Years – Atlas Obscura
Something about the painting made Tianyi Yu pause. The artwork, depicting tropical plants crowded together in a riot of color, had been painted in 1876 by prolific botanical illustrator Marianne North. The wealthy Victorian woman had traveled the world, usually on her own, documenting in bold oils the plants and landscapes she saw.
During a trip to Borneo, North had filled this canvas with plants from a particular spot in the forests of the island’s northwest corner. The viewer’s eye might be drawn to oblong yellow fruits from one plant, or pink buds from another, or the rounded leaves cascading down one side of the painting, one of them apparently nibbled by an insect. But Yu, a botanical illustrator who was working at London’s Kew Gardens while pursuing a masters degree, was drawn to clusters of berries, some green and unripe but others black or a bold blue. These berries would solve a botanical cold case more than a century in the making, and connect both illustrators forever.
Read A Botanical Mystery Solved, After 146 Years – Atlas Obscura