The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Nowhere perhaps is the marriage of science and art more happily realized than in botanical painting. It is Nature that provides the specimen, but it is the artist who propagates its beauty and its truth; the world is thus gifted with a progeny that otherwise would have remained unrealized. Still, it is a union as fragile as time. The same flower cannot be looked at twice, for like music, which disappears even as it is heard, so too does the flower change when it is observed. And not only the flower: the observer as well. Time is literally carrying the two apart. Botanical artist Esther Heins (1908- ) ( JAMA covers, December 25, 2002, and June 7, 2006) feels this keenly: “I want time to stand still,” she writes. “I want to capture on paper the fragility of a blossom. I want to give immortality to a living plant that too soon will wither and die. I work and work until some magic happens and it is no longer a painting of a leaf but the leaf itself.” One such example of Heins’ work is Paeonia suffruticosa (cover ). Also known as the tree peony, or moutan, P suffruticosa is a relative of the more common Paeonia lactiflora, a hardy, herbaceous perennial that dies back each year. Paeonia suffruticosa, on the other hand, is a woody deciduous shrub, growing to a height between four and six feet. It is the only woody variety cultivated. Both are members of the family Ranunculaceae (buttercup family).
Southgate MT. Paeonia suffruticosa. JAMA. 2007;297(21):2323. doi:10.1001/jama.297.21.2323