Kew - Japanese wood panels
These belong to a set of 26 panels illustrating trees that are important in Japanese culture. The three trees shown here are native to China, but were introduced to Japan many centuries ago.
On display at Kew Gardens from 20 January - 6 March 2011
On the left is the Chusan palm, now known by botanists as Trachycarpus fortunei. The middle panel is Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) and on the right is Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki).
The panels were made at the University of Tokyo Botanical Gardens in 1878. At the time, Japan was modernising after 200 years of self-imposed isolation.
The beginnings of modern botany in Japan are shown through the combination of local name and botanical (Latin) name on each label, and of the Japanese painting and European style of wood sample.
Each panel is made of the wood and bark of the tree shown in the painting; the distinctive bark of the Chusan palm shows the black scars where leaf bases have broken off the trunk. Like many of the 32,000 wood specimens in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, these panels were first collected as scientific specimens. They can now be appreciated for their artistic and historical importance.
EBC 39985, 39992, 40003, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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