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Catherine Wardrop

Scientific Botanical Illustrator

Scientific illustration is one of many aspects of botanical research to aid plant identification and conservation at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. This institution has a long history of professional illustrators working alongside botanists, molecular biologists, ecologists and plant pathologists to give an incredibly comprehensive understanding of all new and renamed plant species.

The Number 1 question asked of all scientific illustrators in this digital world is “Why do you still use drawings instead of photographs?” Simply put, scientific illustrators create images of plants by referencing recent and historic herbarium collections. In my role, I use my artistic skill to translate the taxonomy, interpret microscopic botanical details, omit the unnecessary, document the essential and (hopefully) describe a species so well that it never has to be drawn again. Since 1998 I have illustrated native, exotic and invasive weed species at RBG Sydney and the most recent examples of my work are to be seen accompanying botanical descriptions in online publications of Telopea and PlantNET.

As Margaret Flockton Award curator, each year I also promote, communicate with and contribute to a growing international community of contemporary scientific botanical illustrators.

Affiliations and committees

Margaret Flockton Award Committee: Founding member, 2003 – current; Curator, 2010 – present

Unique in the world, the Margaret Flockton Award and Exhibition is named in honour of our illustrating predecessor of a century ago (1901 – 1927). Over the past 16 years, hundreds of works by Australian and international illustrators have been exhibited, tens of thousands of visitors have admired the exhibition and RBG Sydney is now recognised worldwide as having been a centre for excellence in scientific botanical illustration since 1901.


The Leader, 2019 Nature’s backdrop for Botanica 2019 artists at Royal Botanic Gardens
Foxtel, Coast Australia, Season 3 Episode 6 – NSW Botany Bay to the Shoalhaven Coast
Australian Geographic Magazine “The Illustrated Garden” by Chrissie Goldrick. Sep/Oct 2016
Australian Geographic Botanical illustrations flourish in the digital age May 2017
Sydney Morning Herald Rare botanical beauties rediscovered
Margaret Flockton at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. City of Sydney - Cultural Ribbon Foreshore Histories Project 


Botanica 2019 – Celebration, March – April 2019, The Lion Gate Lodge, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Blue Mountains Botanica, Aug – Oct 2018, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre

Hear from Catherine in the video below

Selected published works

Asterolasia correifolia (Rutaceae) - digital illustration - Telopea 21: 381–389 (2019)

Plectranthus laxus (Lamiaceae) - digital illustration - Australian Systematic Botany 31(6): 433-447 (2018)

Utricularia dichotoma subspecies - comparative plate - digital illustration (ined.) (2018)