Book Review: ‘Flowers in the Dust’, by Jenny Mace, published by Shady Tree, Australia, 2017


In the ancient landscapes of Queensland’s desert uplands grow many curious and attractive plants. Dame Quentin Bryce Ad, CVO, remembers the desert uplands for its ‘vivid red soils, its astonishing vegetation, its lakes, its slopes and its plains.

For many of us it’s easy to miss these tough, resilient wildflowers when they’re in bloom – the uplands cover a huge amount of land and plants growing in this semi-arid region respond quickly to good rainfall. In 2016, that country was baked dry, but on Australia Day 2017, its lakes were full, pasture was lush and the wildflowers were brilliant. It was high season for botanical artist Jenny Mace.

Blackall, Queensland

Blackall, Queensland

Jenny Mace grew up near Barcaldine. She freely admits her art is an obsession. I was lucky to meet Jenny in September 2015, when Barcaldine Regional Council opened ‘Botanica’, an exhibition of her botanical illustrations at the Globe Art Gallery in Barcaldine. A tough drought prevailed. At the Globe, Jenny carried a spray of channel-leaf cymbidium orchid (Cymbidium canaliculatum) , an epiphyte, and one of her favourite local wildflowers. Jenny showed its precious flowers to her audience and described how happy she was to be able to study and document nature’s beauty.

 

Silver-leafed Ironbark, Eucalyptus melanophloia

Silver-leafed Ironbark, Eucalyptus melanophloia

Botanical illustrations are basic science: they help us discover what individual wildflowers look like. Plants are no longer anonymous scientific names on a flora checklist. Illuminated by the artist, botanical illustrations provide us an opportunity to recognise and soak up the unique patterns of each different plant species. Sometimes this helps us to recognise an entirely new species to science, or the variations within different populations of the same species growing in different habitats.

It’s hard spotting a rock fern when it’s dormant in drought. We might never see these plants growing wild, but using ‘Flowers in the Dust’ and other works we can learn to recognise the features that define plants – allowing us to place them into botanical groupings, such as the genus Eucalyptus or the family Asteraceae. This strengthens our understanding of and our connection to the world around us.

Jenny Mace, The Globe, Barcaldine

Jenny Mace, The Globe, Barcaldine

Jenny Mace says “I have come home to the place where I was born and the place where I feel I belong towards the end of my life. It is an area I love and my goal is to paint the miraculous botanica of the region. It is my gift to a place that has given so much to me”.

Thank you, Jenny, for your prolific and pioneering work. The more people that see how varied and fascinating the plants of Queensland’s desert uplands are, the more likely we are to care for our country.

A copy of this book can be ordered via Barcaldine Regional Council.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

Jenny Mace's Botanica Art Exhibition, Barcaldine

Jenny Mace’s Botanica Art Exhibition, Barcaldine

‘Flowers in the Dust’, illustrated by Jenny Mace, text by William Green and Martina Dexter.
Copyright Barcaldine Regional Council and Jenny Mace.
Published by Shady Tree, 2017. Email: history@forrest.net.au
ISBN 9780994253637 (hardback) $65 including postage and packing

12th November 2017