I spent a week in Boston, collecting seed pods at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University. Over the next year, I’ll photograph each specimen and write its profile for an exhibit in Fall 2013. It was a good trip: The air was cold but bright, the pods were bountiful, and every tree was identified. Even though I do enjoy the search—sometimes long, often circuitous, surprisingly always fruitful—to identify a seed pod I’ve collected in the wild, this was a really nice convenience.



After a couple weeks in Southern California, I returned to Portland to pick up my seed pods and head back to Los Angeles, where I’ve been working with jewelry designer and amateur entomologist Jennifer Herwitt. We’re designing specimen terrariums (my seed pods with her butterflies and beetles) for a new shop in downtown L.A. that will also feature my photographs. I’ve spent the past week framing prints in lots of sizes, including a 24×28 frame that looks fantastic. I’m excited for the show—my work will be alongside pieces by other talented artist and designers, and the specimens look so good as a group. The diversity of form is staggering.

Poppy (Papaver orientale) is the newest specimen, which I collected last fall in Portland, Oregon. Welcome, little one!

The shop at 715 South Los Angeles St.



When Tania Marien contacted me for an interview, I was already familiar with her work. A botanic educator & content curator, she publishes the site ArtPlantae Today — a collection of writing, news, and flora-related events. Her site has been an invaluable resource when researching content for my Art & Botany column at Garden Design magazine. Of my work, Marien writes: “Increasing public knowledge about plants is at the heart of everything Anna does.” Well said indeed! Thank you for including my work among so many important botanic writers, illustrators, and educators.




An exciting recent find: seed pods of the Silk Floss tree (Ceiba speciosa). Walking along Fairfax with a bag of fresh rugula from Canters, I saw a pod in a canopy too high too reach (my height can be a liability in the specimen collecting field), but there were more trees further along Fairfax. I headed north towards Santa Monica and found these woody claws in the median strip’s tall grasses, just north of Beverly. How fabulous! Look at the flowers, the trunk, the fruits! What a tree. In the middle of the city, in a median strip no less! I love Los Angeles.

Silk Floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) seed pods .

Silk Floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) flower, trunk & canopy.

JUNE 2012

The editor-in-chief at Garden Design believed that our work in Kurdistan — documenting the neglected agriculture & abandoned landscapes of a once-fertile region — would be a meaningful departure from the magazine’s standard content of lush gardens & manicured horticulture. I wrote a short narrative of the project for the magazine’s July / August issue.

A companion photo gallery includes extended captions & a short summary: “Iraqi Kurdistan, a region in northern Mesopotamia, is home to mountains, steppes, and pastures that were part of the Fertile Crescent: the birthplace of agriculture—and, indeed, civilization. There, ancient farmers nurtured a wealth of crops that would become staples throughout the world. Today, after years of wars and sanctions, Kurdistan is reengaging its land. As it negotiates the challenges of a new era, native plants and crops remain a defining feature of the landscape and people—how long can the agricultural heritage last?”



Bravo, Emma & Eddie! We’ve launched This Is Fertile Ground, an interactive farm and non-linear video documentary about farming in the Fertile Crescent. I illustrated plant growth for the site’s stop-motion animation. All crops are native to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, where a tradition of agriculture is endangered. Not only does the concept reflect the dilemma (low media attention to farmers in Iraq, and low agricultural capacity of their land), it’s a really nice model of incentive-based multi-media education.

Our farm fully grown, after about a hundred users have watched a video clip.

As users watch video clips from our documentary, a plant will grow, reinforcing the idea that growth is possible through a collective awareness and hearing the stories of Iraqi farmers. Lots of the clips are from our trip to Kurdistan last summer. We hope to further develop the content, create a section for users to contribute media, and refine the animation to include pollination, rain, and seed dispersal.

Our farm in early stages of growth, after a handful of video views.

MAY 2012

My work has recently received a couple nice mentions from wonderful institutions. Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum included my Botany Blueprint series in their list of notable botanic projects. Also, The New York Botanical Garden highlighted my recent Print magazine piece on the Lotus seed pod.

I’m sending several prints out today—a monkey pod tree canopy (Pithecellobium saman) and two seed pod prints for our hosts in Hawai’i. The seed pods are a wood rose (Merremia tuberosa) and a Kokio (Kokia drynarioides), both of which I collected in February.

Wood rose (Merremia tuberosa) and kokio (Kokia drynarioides) (top); Monkey pod tree (Pithecellobium saman) (bottom)


I sent off three 11×14 framed prints to Montecito, California, where they’ll hang in the garden shop at Lotusland. All three seed pods—Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), Australian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon, and Sweetshade (Hymenosporum flavum)—are among those I collected at Lotusland last fall. It’s wonderful to think of their proxies returning home. Thanks to Karen Kester for selecting the prints.

Australian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon); 11×14 print, 17×20 framed


I spent some time in Dubai in 2009, producing a story with director Lauren Greenfield. Our invaluable man-on-the-ground was Mohamed Somji, photojournalist and director of Gulf Photo Plus, a Dubai-based photography organization. I loved working with Mohamed in Dubai, so it was really exciting to contribute to his latest initiative, a show of fine art prints by international photographers. I designed a four-fruit print exclusively for the show. If you’re in Dubai on June 6, stop by the show opening (7pm in Alserkal Avenue). After that, limited edition prints will be available online.

Clockwise from upper left: Golden rain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata), California flannel bush (Fremontodendron californicum), Hawaiian wood rose (Merremia tuberosa), Painted trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides)



For my final meeting in Hawai’i, I visited the Amy B Greenwood Ethnobotanical Garden, which focuses on recovering indigenous biodiversity, and cultivates a variety of endemic species. I met with Peter Van Dyke who permitted me to collect specimens, except from a couple rare plants that were suffering from the drought.

Leaves from a Koa tree (Acacia koa) at the Greenwood Ethnobotanical Garden

APRIL & MAY 2012

A recent article in Nature discusses the disappearance of plant collectors, and, among botanists, a shift from taxonony to molecular studies—from the field to the lab. I’m curious how this will affect the tenor of botanic education, and a dwindling plant literacy. While my specimen acquisitions haven’t taken me to the death-defying scenarios of those profiled in the article, I have fallen into a number of cacti, climbed a couple vertiginous cliffs, and encountered small armies of stinging ants. I don’t collect specimens that are exclusively rare, or undescribed—rather, I have been building a collection of common seed pods that are familiar to audiences. My photography and writing—each a profile of a seed pod, and its respective plant—encourages a new way to think about, and look at, those plants whose ubiquity often renders them invisible. From the proximate field, it’s my contribution to the ultimate one.

Seed pods from Hawai’i, waiting to be sorted and photographed.


I spent a lovely afternoon at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. Many thanks to Michael Dosmann, Marc Devokaitis, and everyone else I met. I’m thrilled to be partnering with them, and look forward to collecting seed pod specimens at the Arboretum in Fall 2012. An exhibition of my photography is slated for Fall 2013.

My dad and I took our dogs to the Arboretum most mornings this winter, and it was always wonderful to find ourselves in the clearing by the Mountain ash (Sorbus Aucuparia).


Aloha from Hawai’i, where a canopy of monkeypod trees fills the sky, and all sorts of seed pods cover the ground. Today I met with David Tan and Kate Logan at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden; we discussed a partnership with my project. Not many tropical plants are fruiting now, so David will be sending me seed pods to photograph until I can make a return trip to collect specimens myself. After our meeting I explored the Garden’s fantastic collection of Heliconias, gingers, and ferns.Little club-moss (Selaginella spp.) at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden


The good people at Nani Mau allowed me to collect specimens from their gardens. I found the annatto tree, a yellow catalpa, and several legumes I am still trying to identify. The curated grounds are generally used for weddings and events; today, all 20 acres were completely empty. A variety of tree canopies provided coverage when it lightly rained.

Traveler’s Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) at Nani Mau Gardens