Skip to content

Lesley Elkan

Botanical Illustrator

Before commencing my role as botanical illustrator for the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney in 1995, I completed a Bachelor of Science (Environmental Biology) and a Graduate Diploma in Art (Plant and Wildlife Illustration). I primarily work with staff botanists to illustrate newly discovered or renamed plant species as well as documenting the flora of New South Wales.

These black and white scientific drawings, now produced digitally, are published in the Flora of NSW Online (PlantNet), the Flora of Australia, Telopea and other taxonomic journals. In addition, an annual task is co-curating, with Catherine Wardrop, the internationally renowned Margaret Flockton Award for excellence in scientific botanical illustration.
Teaching illustration has been an integral part of my career along with painting for exhibition.  My work is held in collections around the world, including Kew Garden's Illustration Collection, The Alisa and Isaac M. Sutton Collection and the Florilegium at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. I have been the recipient of the Linnean Society of London’s ‘Jill Smythies Award’ (2005) and 1st and 2nd place in the Margaret Flockton Award in 2008 & 2004 respectively.

Affiliations and committees

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

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 and tens of thousands of visitors have admired the exhibition. RBG Sydney is now recognised worldwide as having been a centre for excellence in scientific botanical illustration since 1901.
Florilegium at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: Founding committee member 2006 - present


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
Radio National's Blue print for Living “The science behind botanical illustrating” interview
Margaret Flockton at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. City of Sydney - Cultural Ribbon Foreshore Histories Project. 


The Florilegium: The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, March – September 2018, Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens
Blue Mountains Botanica, Aug – Oct 2018, Blue Mountains Cultural Centre
Florilegium – Sydney’s painted Garden, July – September 2016, Museum of Sydney


Hear from Lesley in the video below

Selected published works

Hibbertia fumana - ink on film - Telopea (2017) 20: 143-146 fig. 1

Plectranthus wallamanensis (Lamiaceae) - digital illustration - Australian Systematic Botany (2018) 31(6): 433-447 fig. 7

Utricularia grampiana - ink on film - Telopea (2013) 15: 127-142 fig. 4