Ruskin's Botanical Drawings

John Ruskin, Silver - Weed - Flower and Bud Studies, RF1516 © Ruskin Foundation

Ruskin, John (1819-1900)

Silver - Weed - Flower and Bud Studies.
4 9/10 X 4 1/2 in.
Ink and Wash

Inscribed: Silver-weed - back of flower pulled off stalk...

RF 1516


The top drawing shows, as the notes suggest, an underside view of a single flower of Silverweed (Potentilla anserina; Rose family Rosaceae). These perennial plants which spread, by means of runners, through grassy places, waste ground and sand-dunes, have compound leaves with 14 20 pinnately-arranged, toothed leaflets, all densely covered with silvery hairs. The golden-yellow flowers, which are 15 to 20 mm diameter, are borne singly and appear from May to August. They usually (but see below) have five, rounded petals, a calyx of five, three-toothed sepals and an epicalyx of five pointed sepals, all as depicted here.

The two drawings of a bud (below), in profile and from above, show a calyx and epicalyx, each with four, not five, sepals. This clearly worried Ruskin, as the note suggests, and caused him to wonder whether he was drawing the bud of another Potentilla species with the flower parts in fours, as in Tormentil (see RF RF 1280 and RF 1281). However, the sepals appear to be typical of P. anserine, so he may have drawn the bud of a variant form of Silverweed which had the flower parts in fours not fives.

This entry was researched and written by Professor David Ingram.