To many people wildflowers are beautiful, but although they love them they do not know their names or much else about them. A new book which includes watercolor paintings of the most frequently seen wildflowers in the eastern half of North America, drawn from the living plants as they grew, botanicaly perfect in every detail, makes it possible for the amateur naturalist to accurately name the wildflowers seen blooming on field trips.
Paintings by Louis C. Linn, and text by his wife, Ruth Hearn Linn, "Eastern North America's Wildflowers," published by Dutton, 373 full-color life-size paintings, 276 pages, costs $9.95 paperback.
Louis Linn's purpose in painting wildflowers was to preserve them and to enrich the life of the beholder. He wanted to share with others the thrill of recognizing wildflowers by name; he wanted to help them see and wonder at the intricate beauty of even a weed.
Linn had no degree in botany but always painted.He attended evening classes at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington while in high school, then studied two years full-time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Still later he painted with the Art Student's League in New York.
When he came home from World War I he decided to devote himself to painting. He lived in a beautiful natural setting, five acres on the Potomac River, near Washington, a wildflower haven with woods, rich open ground, and river banks.
He never went out without a sketch pad and made numerous trips to Maine, Long Island, western New York State, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and other southern areas.
He died suddenly, more than a quarter of a century ago, after he had completed the watercolors that are in the book.
Twenty-five years later, his wife, Ruth, took the paintings to Dr. Frederick G. Meyer, director of the Herbarium of the National Arboretum, in Washington.
"The paintings, Dr. Meyer told me, were as timely as when they were done," she says. "And while a number of field guides existed with beautiful color photographs, there was not yet in the United States a field book of painted flowers in which every detail was in focus.
"Dr. Meyer sent me first to Dr. John Churchill, who prepared a herbarium for the University of Michigan. He too was enthusiastic and patiently and painstakingly researched each plant and updated the taxonomy.
"Dr. Meyer then set himself the task of supervising a script. After 13 months, three writings, and numerous trips to the herbarium, a text slowly evolved.
"He read, corrected, and reread it, mostly home at nights. His patience, work, unflagging interest, and faith in the project have made it possible."
The Graden Club of America and the National Council of State Garden Clubs among others have endorsed the book. It also has the approval of the Nation Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Naturalist Society.
"These wildflower paintings have achieved the highest degree of structural accuracy and fidelity of color that is possible in the medium of watercolors," says Dr. Meyer. "Mrs. Linn's text is written in simple, nontechnical language, and the descriptions of the plants are concise and to the point. Descriptions of the flower families are included to show the book's user that individual plants, like humans, belong to families and that kinship among plants is an attribute everywhere present in nature."