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Beautiful images illustrate the dawn of modern botany

These delicately detailed representations of plants by a founding figure of modern botany are given a new lease of life in the book Leonhart Fuchs: The New Herbal

Life 9 March 2022

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Leonhart Fuchs

Illustrator Leonhart Fuchs

THESE delicately detailed representations of medicinal plants are the work of Leonhart Fuchs, a 16th-century German physician and botanist commonly considered one of the founding figures of modern botany.

The images are taken from the book Leonhart Fuchs: The New Herbal by historian Werner Dressendörfer and published by Taschen. It is based on Fuchs’s original catalogue of about 500 herbal plants and their properties.

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Leonhart Fuchs

Fuchs’s work, De Historia Stirpium, released in 1543, was based on previous botanical knowledge and his own research. It is widely recognised for the accuracy and high quality of Fuchs’s illustrations, a selection of which are shown here.

First is garden balsam (Impatiens balsamina), a native of Asia historically used to treat skin ailments, such as burns (with the flowers) and warts (the leaves).

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Leonhart Fuchs

The following four images show: a variety of Cucurbita pepo, a group of vegetables high in antioxidants and other beneficial molecules. Other varieties are cultivated to produce crops including pumpkins and courgettes.

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Leonhart Fuchs

Next is a pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), which contains the medically active compound anemonin. Bottom right is mandrake (Mandragora), once used in Europe as a laxative, ointment and alleged aphrodisiac, among other applications.

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Leonhart Fuchs

Finally, there is Arum maculatum, also known as lords-and-ladies. The tubers of this have been used to create homeopathic tinctures to, supposedly, treat sore throats. Remember though, some of the plants listed can be toxic.

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