Main Narrative » Mary Emily Eaton

The Cactaceae

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Mar 27 2019

The Cactaceae was a publication written by the founder of NYBG, Nathaniel Lord Britton along with his colleague Joseph Nelson Rose. This publication was a major undertaking to describe every known species of the cactus family. Britton and his collaborators made expeditions throughout North America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America, collecting cacti to bring back to the Garden. Since the cacti were not always in bloom on these expeditions, they would bring back living specimens to grow in our greenhouses, waiting for them to flower—sometimes waiting years. When they finally bloomed, the flowers were rushed to Mary Eaton’s office to be painted that day.

See below, the very specimen of Selenicereus boeckmannii (Otto) Britton & Rose that Ms. Eaton used to paint this gorgeous plate published in The Cactaceae. According to the specimen label, the plant was originally collected in Cuba in 1909. It flowered at NYBG and was painted May 14, 1913.

A Closer Look