Story behind the art of Susan Benjamin 

Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial

Moreton Bay Fig 

Ficus macrophylla
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, Florida

A tropical urban oasis, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, located in Sarasota, Florida, is a world-class center for education, research and conservation. When I was deciding what tree to depict for this exhibition, garden volunteers and the Director of Botany mentioned the noble Moreton Bay fig, Ficus macrophylla. I knew exactly what tree they suggested as it is a favorite of many garden visitors and mine. When I was sketching or taking photographs, people young and old were climbing over or playing among the large root crevices.


Standing beneath the unmistakable Moreton Bay Fig, I am struck with awe and wonder of this large, evergreen tree that is native to the eastern coast of Australia. It has very powerful buttressed roots that help support its massive trunk. The surface root system spreads out along the ground in all directions like tentacles weaving over and under each other. It is interesting to note that the figs produced by this giant species are very small, about an inch long. The huge number of fruit produced by this fig tree makes it a key source of food for birds.


For my composition, I chose to draw only the impressive roots and trunk and not the glossy, dark green leaves, blossoms or fruit. The trunk and roots are a brownish gray so I felt that graphite pencil would be a suitable medium to use. I was able to establish strong light and dark values and not be influenced by color. The most challenging part in creating this drawing was to depict the complexity and size of the roots and not confuse the viewer with too much detail. 


Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International
  • © 2017 Susan Benjamin
    Moreton Bay Fig
    Ficus macrophylla
    Graphite on paper
    12" x 17"