Painted wooden panel of Asian Pear, Japan

Painted wooden panel of Asian Pear, Japan

The science and art of plants

Plants mean different things to different people. Naturalists collect specimens to examine and classify. Artists study them for their beauty. In everyday life people use plants for food, materials and medicines.

These extraordinary Japanese panels capture all of these meanings. Made in 1878, each one depicts a plant which is important in Japanese culture. They are painted on the wood of the tree itself and framed in its bark.

The Asian pear (pictured) is cultivated primarily for its fruit. It’s related to European pears, but the crisp, juicy fruits are large and round, like an apple. In Asia they are sometimes given as gifts.

Find out more about plants used in different cultures in ‘Living Medical Traditions’ in the Science and Art of Medicine gallery on the fifth floor.

What do the other museums have to say?

Science Museum: 7 March – 17 April
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 20 Jan – 6 March Wellcome Collection: 18 April – 30 May
Horniman Museum: 31 May – 10 July
Natural History Museum: 11 July – 21 August

Source: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Inv. No: Chusan palm EBC 39985, Asian pear EBC 39992, Japanese persimmon EBC 40003

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