LSU Libraries Special Collections is world-class when it comes to landscape architecture

One of the LSU Libraries Special Collections‘ remarkable treasures is a spectacular collection of 232 Margaret Stones watercolor drawings depicting “Native Flora of Louisiana.” The collection is unparalleled in any other state, and just one of the resources Special Collections offers in support of teaching and research in landscape architecture.

Magnolia Macrophylia Big Leaf Magnolia

Like the plant it portrays, Stones’s watercolor drawing of the Magnolia macrophylla, or bigleaf magnolia, is unusual. The bigleaf magnolia is the largest drawing in the collection (approx. 38 x 57 cm) and the only one with a horizontal orientation.

The series began in 1976, when LSU Chancellor Paul Murrill commissioned renowned botanical artist Margaret Stones to create six watercolor drawings of Louisiana native flora to be a lasting legacy of the LSU’s bicentennial celebration.  Encouraged by the enthusiastic response to the project, Murrill enlarged the commission to 200 drawings, which Stones completed by 1991.

Stones worked only from live plant material, so she began to visit Louisiana regularly.  Working in close consultation with Lowell Urbatsch, a member of LSU’s botany faculty, she created a unique collection of botanical art that will continue to inform students and researchers for generations to come.  She also formed many enduring friendships, as collecting trips took the artist and her hosts on adventures throughout the state.

The project brought together hundreds of Louisianans who volunteered their time and effort and contributed funding, as well. It raised awareness of the state’s natural richness and inspired new scientific interest in its flora, leading to the discovery of rare and endangered species formerly unknown in the state.  Drawings from the “Native Flora” have been widely exhibited in Louisiana and throughout the world, acting as our state’s ambassadors to communicate the beauty and value of Louisiana’s natural heritage. Digitized images of the collection are accessible via the Louisiana Digital Library.

Additional landscape architecture resources in Special Collections

The Stones drawings are but one resource the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections offers in the support of teaching and research in landscape architecture.  Our E.A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection and Rare Book Collection contain important works on British landscape design in the late 18th and early 19th century, nineteenth-century garden books and journals, and European publications that influenced American designers and gardeners. The Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections includes publications on nineteenth-century plantation gardens, urban parks, domestic landscaping, city planning, and histories of individual gardens. Also found in the LLMVC are archival collections such as the records of noted Baton Rouge landscape architects Theodore and Lou Bird Landry, early southern nurseryman Thomas Affleck, the garden journal of Martha Turnbull of Rosedown Plantation, extensive holdings of 18th and 19th century land surveys, and historic photographs of homes, gardens, and landscapes, among other sources that describe and depict Louisiana’s natural and planned landscapes. In addition, Special Collections holds copies of final projects, theses, and selected design studies produced by students and faculty in LSU’s School of Landscape Architecture.

 Some of this text was adapted/ excerpted from an essay by Elaine B. Smyth, Treasures of LSU (LSU Press, 2010).


Posted in Digital Collections, Resources, Special Collections

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