Fruit and fungi in all their glory

Recently I’ve been musing on plants and their significance, both in economic terms and in folklore and myth. A chance trip at the weekend to the Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens recalled me to a display that I’ve admired for many years.

Witness the models shown below. There are fungi and fruit of all types. They were made in Gotha, Germany by Heinrich Arnoldi and Co, and date from the 1870s and 1880s. Best of all, they are made out of papier mache – Arnoldi figured out a way to apply a stucco finish to papier mache models, giving them a realistic look.

Each fungus has a handwritten colour coded label – blue means edible, red is poisonous and green is harmless.

Papier mache fungi, Museum of Economic Botany

Papier mache fungi

There are many apples and pears – the photo below shows a small selection.

Papier mache apples, Museum of Economic Botany

Papier mache apples

Here are some plums. And an exception in the collection – the pomegranate at the top right; this is wax and the sole object remaining from an 1888 collection of wax fruit models – it appears that they melted during the hot Adelaide summers.

Papier mache plums, and one wax pomegranate, Museum of Economic Botany

Papier mache plums, and one wax pomegranate

The Museum of Economic Botany is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. It’s the last purpose-built colonial museum remaining in the world, and if you like nineteenth century time capsules, it is outstanding.

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