Vintage Plant Drawings Explore the Unseen Beauty of Complex Tree Root Systems

Tree Root System Drawing

Pinus sylvestris

Plants are usually known for their beautiful flowers, leaves, and branches, but there is a whole other side to them that we rarely see. Netherlands-based Wageningen University & Research possesses an archive of 1,180 drawings that depict the intricate patterns and routes of root systems. These elaborate studies were made over a period of 40 years, focusing on the flora of Europe with particular emphasis on Austria.

These drawings were part of a collaborative effort between University professor Dr. Erwin Lichtenegger and University professor Dr. Lore Kutschera, leader of Pflanzensoziologisches Institute. Each illustration portrays a specific type of plant or tree as it appears above ground and below. The artists include a scale on the side to give context to the size and expanse of these root systems.

While the primary function of these drawing exercises was to study the way in which these fibrous networks collect nutrients and water for the plants, they are also exquisite works of art themselves. Dr. Lichtenegger and Dr. Kutschera meticulously sketched the sprawling labyrinthine roots, even as they spread out, stretched in far directions, and grew numerous tendrils. It highlights the beauty of a less-seen side of nature.

Scroll down to see more root drawings, and learn more about the series by visiting Wageningen University's website.

An archive of 1,180 drawings from Wageningen University & Research captures the complex beauty of tree roots systems.

Tree Root System Drawings

Pinus sylvestris

Tree Root System Drawing

Picea abies

Tree Root System Drawing

Fagus sylvatica

Tree Root System Drawing

Fraxinus excelsior

Tree Root System Drawing

Juniperus communis ssp. communis

Tree Root System Drawings

Zygophyllum xanthoxylon

Tree Root System Drawing

Juniperus communis ssp. alpina

Tree Root System Drawing

Pinus cembra

Tree Root System Drawing

Lolium multiflorum

Tree Root System Drawing

Adonis vernalis

Tree Root System Drawing

Oxyria digyna

Wageningen University: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [Open Culture]

All images via Wageningen University & Research.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.
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