Author Archives: Anna Laurent

About Anna Laurent

Anna Laurent is a Los Angeles-based designer, writer, and documentary producer. Her current projects are a series of educational plant-oriented media to advance botanic literacy. She studied evolutionary theory at Harvard University and graphic design at Massachusetts College of Art. annalaurent.com

Botany Blueprint: The Lipstick Tree

Specimen #26: Lipstick Tree (Bixa orellana) The fruits from Bixa orellana, a small tree native to tropical America, are designed with exhortations. Two distinct messages are delivered in succession: first, a threat; then, an invitation. A heart-shaped capsule is the first thing a forager will notice. Covered in spines, the fruit is a warning:...

Botany Blueprint: New Zealand Flax

Specimen #25: New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) New Zealand flax, a strappy foliage plant, is best known in—you guessed it—its native New Zealand, where the early Maori wove an 18th-century economy out of its long, leathery leaves. They used the plant to make rafts, nets, baskets for anything, and apparel for everyone; in 1803,...

Botany Blueprint: The Paperbag Bush

Specimen #24: Paperbag bush (Salazaria mexicana) Light as a ghost, a paperbag bush balloon is an easy desert traveler, drawing its weight from the wind and its coloring from the sunset. These tiny seed vessels roll through ghost towns in Nevada and undisturbed arroyos in California until an intervening twig or rock persuades them...

Botany Blueprint: Burdock

Specimen #23: Burdock (Arctum minus) What do NASA astronauts, new parents, and cardiac surgeons have in common? They all owe a debt of gratitude to the common weed burdock, whose hook-tipped burrs inspired the invention of Velcro. Hailed as the revolutionary “zipperless zipper,” the hook-and-loop fastener has been used to adhere disposable diapers, artificial...

Botany Blueprint: The Lotus

Specimen #22: Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) When I began collecting seed pods, the lotus was something of a holy grail. I knew it through photographs—exotic and beautiful, it’s fair to say I coveted it. I wasn’t going to find one floating in any Hollywood pools, and I wasn’t planning a specimen collecting trip to Eastern...

Botany Blueprint: The Hawaiian Cotton Tree

Specimen #21: Hawaiian Cotton Tree (Kokia drynarioides) Although it is an ancestor of the well-traveled modern cotton, Kokia drynarioides, a Hawaiian endemic, has most likely not left the island on which it evolved. You might say there are worse places to be bound, than a sunny spot on leeward Hawai’i, but botanists consider it...

Botany Blueprint: Wood Rose

Specimen #20: Wood Rose (Merremia tuberosa) Elegant and aged, the wood rose capsule is the dowager of the garden. In her youth, she was pretty enough—a tubular yellow flower that was lovely, but hardly memorable—but now, in her senescence, she has acquired a certain noble grace. The sunny callow blossom has been replaced by...

Botany Blueprint: Australian Blackwood

Specimen #19: Australian Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) The world is filled with wattles—1350 species, more or less. Of the Acacia genus, in the Mimosa family, wattle trees often have little puffy flowers and long seed pods. 600 are native to Australia, but many, such as Australian Blackwood, have been introduced throughout the world. A hardy...

Botany Blueprint: Tara

Specimen #18: Tara (Caesalpinia spinosa) ith its flaming beans and razor-sharp noli me tangere spines, the tree we call, simply, “tara” (Caesalpinia spinosa), is a striking figure, in any landscape. My encounter with tara was by a Pacific tide pool, on a stormy day. The fiery-hued seed pods seemed to advise that we venture...

Botany Blueprint: California Sycamore

Specimen #17: California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) e love the sycamore for its large leaves and cool canopy, and for a curious bark that peels to reveal a mottled pattern of greys and browns. However, we are not so sure about its fruits—at least, that’s what I heard from a fellow Angeleno, who happened to...