Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium

Continues to Grow in Minneapolis

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist - Volume 18, Issue 3


When visitors step behind the rustic gates at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, they quickly forget they’re in the middle of Minneapolis.  A meandering trail takes visitors deep into nature’s wonderland, the quiet accented with the sounds of birds, insects, frogs and wind whispering in the trees. 

This 15-acre garden is the oldest public wildflower garden in the nation. Its legacy dates back to 1907 when Minneapolis botanist Eloise Butler and botany teachers successfully petitioned the Minneapolis Park Board to create a natural botanic garden to preserve native flora as the city grew. What a farsighted concept! The Garden is home to over 500 plant species with spectacular seasonal displays of native wildflowers in woodland, wetland and prairie areas.

In 2010, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and the Minnesota School of Botanical Art (MSBA) started working collaboratively to sponsor the development of a florilegium to document the unique and special plants present. The creation of that volume - a visual, botanically accurate record of the plants - over the next many years will add to the richness and depth of Wildflower Garden’s legacy. 

Susan Wilkins, the Garden’s Curator, developed a list of 110 significant plants that represent the woodland, wetland and prairie bio -zones located here. Students of the MSBA began by choosing plants from the list in August, 2010. After numerous visits to sketch and photograph their plants in situ, each work is finished as 16x20” watercolor painting. These are submitted annually in February, when they are juried into the florilegium. Currently 61 paintings are finished or in process. Once accepted, the work is donated to the City of Minneapolis, whose holds responsibility to exhibit the work and maintain a permanent archive for future generations.

  • Maianthemum racemosum, False Solomon's Seal, 16" x 20" watercolor on paper, by ©Faith Clover
  • Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair Fern, 16x20" watercolor on paper, ©Terry Klepinski