Botanical Lessons

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Oct 18 2019

Botany students must learn the structures of flowers in all their intricate variety. Large flowers are easier to figure out with the naked eye: counting the petals, sepals, pistils and stamens, and identifying the different shapes and adaptations of these structures. With smaller flowers though you might need the aid of a microscope or (our namesake) a hand lens to see enough detail. As those tools were not widely available to 19th century botany students, three dimensional models were often used to teach students floral structure. These models are much larger than life size, and have removable parts so that you can "dissect" the flower. 

The Cooper Hewitt museum is currently displaying botanical models created by the German firm R. Brendel & Co. between 1875-1898. Designed to be teaching aids, they are beautiful sculptures in their own right. Check out the tiny clasps on the Salvia model, allowing you to remove flower parts and see inside. 

Just as botany students would have done in the 19th century, compare these models to herbarium specimens of the same species for your own botanical lesson.