Collection Spotlight

North American Wild Flowers, by Mary Vaux Walcott, 1925

Mary Vaux Walcott’s North American Wild Flowers is one of the finest examples of 19th- and early 20th-century North American naturalism. Its illustrations earned the American artist the nickname the Audubon of Botany 

The Smithsonian Institution published North American Wild Flowers between 1925 and 1928. Its five volumes feature 400 of Walcott’s watercolour paintings of native wildflowers. Each plate includes information about the flower and about the painting of each specimen, including where it was found. This work received acclaim for both its beauty and scientific accuracy.

Besides being a gifted artist, Walcott was an accomplished botanist, glacial geologist and landscape photographer. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1860, but her family vacationed regularly in the Canadian Rockies. From her teenage years, she trekked through the Rockies on horseback and summited mountains. In fact, a peak in Jasper National Park, Mount Mary Vaux, was named in her honour.

Walcott surveyed the flowered landscape on her excursions through the Rockies, building an impressive portfolio of illustrations. Botanical enthusiasts urged her to preserve these works. Her watercolours were eventually published as North American Wild Flowers as part of a fundraising campaign Walcott and her husband launched in the 1920s. 

Walcott’s passion for painting flowers continued until her death, in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, in 1940. 

Details :

  • Published in Washington, D.C., by the Smithsonian Institution, 1925.
  • Each volume contains 80 plates for a total of 400 coloured plates, each printed on rag paper using a new printing technique developed by William Edwin Rudge known as the Smithsonian Process.
  • The wildflowers are printed in large format because they are depicted life sized.
  • Edgar T. Wherry wrote the descriptions and Frank Morton Jones wrote the notes on the insects. 

“Red Trillium,” by Mary Vaux Walcott, North American Wild Flowers. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1925. Plate 239


Five folio volumes in gilt-lettered steel-grey/blue linen clamshell portfolios.


“Red-Osier Dogwood,” by Mary Vaux Walcott, North American Wild Flowers. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1925. Plate 38.