Ruskin's Botanical Drawings

John Ruskin, Leaves, Miscellaneous Studies, RF1346 © Ruskin Foundation

Ruskin, John (1819-1900)

Leaves and seedlings, miscellaneous studies
11 3/4 X 15 3/4 in.
Ink, wash and white on board

RF 1346


These delicate studies are probably of seedlings and young leaves of two or more Cranesbills (Geranium spp.; Cranesbill family – Geraniaceae) and a single young leaf of a member of the Daisy family ( Asteraceae).

The deeply divided, reddish-tinged leaf at the bottom right, the seedling above and slightly to the right of it, with a deeply divided leaf and two heart-shaped cotyledons, and the seedling above and to the right of that, again with a single leaf and two cotyledons, all appear to be Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum L.; Geranium family – Geraneaceae), a pink-flowered, annual or biennial, hairy herb of shaded habitats with deeply divided leaves, often tinged red, and a rank, somewhat unpleasant smell.

The large, divided and lobed, green leaf at the top left, the seedling on its immediate right, the single leaf above and to its right, the two seedlings at the top far right and the divided/lobed leaf below the seedling on the extreme far right are also probably pink to mauve-flowered Geranium species, possibly Round-leaved Cranesbill (G. rotundifolium L.) or Hedgerow Cranesbill (G. pyrenaicum Burm. f.), although these identifications must be regarded as very tentative. The former species grows on dry hedge-banks, walls and occasionally farmland, often where the soil is calcareous. The latter may be found in meadows, field margins and on waste ground on dryish soils.

The large leaf at the bottom left of the group appears to be of a young plant of a wild lettuce, perhaps Wall Lettuce (syn. Ivy-leaved Lettuce; Mycelis muralis (L.) Dumort; syn. Lactuca muralis (L.) Fresen.; Daisy family – Asteraceae). This common, hairless perennial of variable size has leaves with broadly triangular lobes, the lamina continuing as a fringe to the base of the petiole. It is a relative of the cultivated lettuce and grows in a diversity of habitats, including waste ground, hedge-banks and rocky places, usually on calcareous soils. The flowers, when produced, are compound, small, pale-yellow in colour and borne on a broad, lax, panicle at the end of a long, wiry flower stalk.

This entry was researched and written by Professor David Ingram.