Editorial by John Fleming

LTHOUGH THE DECORATIVE IMPULSE in its earliest historic manifestations may be ascribed to human understanding of natural forms and forces as signs with mythic, religious, and spiritual meanings— sun discs, phases of the moon, wave-like repetitions, and the like— it seems generally accepted that the origins of botanical illustration arose as a technique of discovery and classification in the search for plants and flowers with medicinal properties. This practice of discovery and application through visual representations of the material world conveyed both a functional scientific content and a system of aesthetic markers necessary to the identification of that meaning: thus colours to attract certain insects, whether bees to pollinate flowers or other species to feed the insectivorous pitcher-plant.

So too can images of a botanical nature be found in a multiplicity of other material productions, in Aboriginal uses of plant materials for dyes, on pottery and ceramics that match contents with container, in still-life paintings and floral watercolours, on sculpted furniture, jewellery, graphics, and in language, as a complex lexicon of floral imagery constructed to express human emotions and rituals, traditionally described as “the language of flowers.”