Margaret Flockton

A Legacy. A Photo. A Mystery.

In March 2003, the breadcrumbs on the career path of Margaret Flockton sparked a detective hunt for missing pieces in the Gardens’ early scientific history. Hundreds of elegant botanical studies with splashes of watercolour inspired the Garden’s illustrators and botanists. But beyond her charming portrait, nothing was known of this mysterious illustrator, her life or career. However, on International Women’s Day in 2003, Margaret’s illustrative legacy was illuminated in the Joseph Maiden Theatre and carried out since.

A Dynamic Career

From 1901 to 1927, Margaret, a giant in the field of Australian botanical illustration, was Director J.H.Maiden’s right–hand woman. Maiden’s key works such as Revision of the Genus Eucalyptus, Forest Flora of NSW and his extensive treatment of the Opuntia genus beared witness to Margaret’s unsurpassed talent as a scientific illustrator and as Australia’s first female lithographer. Between working with enormous limestones, various botanical collections and a stream of commercial work outside the Gardens, Margaret brought a sincere passion to her dynamic and long career. 

Illustration Becomes Art

Flockton’s style is recognisable by her hallmark meticulous observation, flawless accuracy and a supremely elegant sleight of hand. Treasured in the Margaret Flockton Archive are the images that combine sensitive and perfect pencil drawings of a species, with fruits or floral details embellished in watercolour. Painted details burst with volume; in contrast the pencil line work is exquisite in its elegant simplicity.


Much has happened since the International Women’s Day presentation in 2003. Margaret Flockton’s name has branded a very successful annual international award for excellence in scientific botanical illustration, sponsored by the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens and curated by the Gardens current-day illustrators. A biography is set to launch in 2016, detailing all that is remains unknown about Margaret written by her great, great niece Louise Wilson. The tradition of striving for the best in botanical illustration continues at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney,as illustrators contribute to the Garden’s rare heritage.


On Botanical Illustration page - Image representing 'Margaret Flockton': Eucalyptus pilularis - Illustrator: M. Flockton