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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Seeds for Tomorrow: Woody Plants of the Arnold Arboretum

Hope (40) European Bladdernut - Staphylea pinnata, copyright Laura Fantini
Drawing of a seed

Feb 18 - May 30, 2022

Drawings by Laura Fantini

Drawing a seed and its husk in progress

Emily Dickinson wrote memorably that “Hope is the thing with feathers.” In our new art exhibition, artist Laura Fantini illustrates “hope” in each seed she discovers, draws, and records. Her “hope” is not of feathers, though their effervescence and somewhat fragile appearance might be applied to a seed. Her “hope” is for the future of our world—a simple, yet thoroughly necessary application of the word. Each of her drawings includes the word “hope” in its title, each bears her plea to hope for each plant to endure and thrive through the life of its seed.

Seeds for Fantini are the messengers of life, as indeed they truly are. Their DNA promises a continuation of a species, a thread that the earth can hold onto, and a promise for tomorrow.

Laura’s work is very important in that it allows others to examine seeds and fruit as closely as those of us who work with these fascinating plant parts every day. This work gives me hope, in that the beauty [Laura has] created here will draw in more eyes to the beauty of plant biology.

Sean Halloran, Arnold Arboretum Plant Propagator

Fantini’s affinity for art and fascination with nature have been with her since she was very young in Italy. She notes that though Italy has a strong agricultural heritage and respect for nature and biodiversity, documenting seeds remains the domain of scientists and botanists. It has been in North America where she found a much more accessible climate for public involvement.

It is in the U. S. that I started developing a strong interest in seeds and where I have received the greatest assistance and collaboration from places such as the Arnold Arboretum.

Laura Fantini

Each seed that Fantini draws is given her full attention. She respects and gives it endless study and consideration as she envisions the final composition. With her first visit to the Arboretum in 2016 and through the development of this project, she found an aligned sense of spirit and true affiliation.

I was astonished and found an immediate natural connection with it [Arnold Arboretum], a place of harmony and infinite inspiration, especially for the seeds in my drawings. When I started my project about seeds, it was the perfect place to observe and find new subjects.

Laura Fantini

Her artistry combines an eye for the precise physicality of these small beginnings of plants with a reverence for the world of nature. Hope for each seed includes her aspiration that all may appreciate and nourish seeds, as we marvel at their intricate beauty, meticulously rendered in her pieces.

Laura’s drawings are simply exquisite. She captures every minute detail—the perfect smoothness of the European bladdernut seed, the papery maple samara, and the ridges of the acorn cap. Laura is able to bring out the natural, intrinsic beauty of the media that we as propagators and growers work with every day.

Tiffany Enzenbacher, Arnold Arboretum Head of Plant Production

Dickenson’s poem of hope ends with these words—

Yet—never—in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of me.

We all must have hope, and in truth, it asks nothing of us. However, in these precipitous times, it feels imperative that we give more than “a crumb.” We must take care that hope fortifies us in the years ahead with awareness and purpose. We should honor Fantini’s gift for opening our eyes to these extraordinary drawings, these seeds, her hope for the future.


At only 14, Laura Fantini won First Prize for the Premio Culturale Panta Rei in Bologna. Her first group show was in Modena in 1992, and her first show in the United States was in 2001. Since then, her art has been exhibited nationally and internationally and has been widely published and documented.

She was selected by Profilo d’Arte, Banca Profilo as one of the most interesting emerging Italian artists. Her many exhibitions include Museo della Permanente in Milan; Galleria Forni in Bologna; National Museum José Malhoa in Portugal; and the Staten Island Museum, Denise Bibro Fine Art Gallery, and Queens Botanical Garden in New York City, among others.

Fantini has won various awards including First Prize in the First Annual Sylvia Glesmann Floral Exhibition and the Jane Peterson Memorial Award at the Salmagundi Club in New York. She also received the Canson Paper Award for Excellence and the Award for Exceptional Merit from the Colored Pencil Society of America.

Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and at the Queens Botanical Garden in New York City. She is a Signature/Merit Member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, and past member of the Salmagundi Club in New York City.

All work is colored pencil on Schoellershammer illustration board.


Visit Laura Fantini on her website www.laurafantini.com/

All rights of the images reside with the artist. For more information on making a copy, or reusing an image, please send your request to arbweb@arnarb.harvard.edu.

For information on the work itself, or to inquire about purchasing art, please also send your request to arbweb@arnarb.harvard.edu We will put you in touch with the artist.

To best view this exhibition, hold your mouse on an image to see the small magnifier, then click to get the gallery.


Drawing of a seed
Hope (1) Tree of Heaven – Ailanthus altissima, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (5) Oak – Quercus, copyright Laura Fantini, Courtesy of Miller White Fine Arts

Drawing of a seed
Hope (7) Winged Euonymus – Euonymus alatus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (10) Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed.
Hope (11) American Linden – Tilia americana, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (12) European Elm – Ulmus laevis, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (15) Mistletoe Honeysuckle – Lonicera quinquelocularis, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (17) Maple – Acer, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (18) Jet Bead – Rhodotypos scandens, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (23) Royal Paulownia – Paulownia tomentosa, copyright Laura Fantini, Courtesy of Miller White Fine Arts

Drawing of a seed
Hope (26) Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (27) Japanese Pagoda Tree – Styphnolobium japonicum, copyright Laura Fantini

Crawing of a seed
Hope (30) Common Bladder Senna – Cloutea arborescens, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (32) Brook Euonymus – Euonymus americanus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (33) Black Locust – Robinia pseudoacacia, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (34) Japanese Horsechestnut – Aesculus turbinata, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (35) Dawn Redwood – Metasequoia glyptostroboides, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (36) Chinese Fringetree – Chionanthus retusus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (37) Kousa Dogwood – Cornus kousa, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (38) Carolina Silverbell – Halesia tetraptera, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (39) Hamilton’s Spindletree – Euonymus hamiltonianus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (40) European Bladdernut – Staphylea pinnata, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (41) Loebner Magnolia – Magnolia x loebneri, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (42) Maple – Acer, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (43) Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (44) Oak – Quercus, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (45) Kousa Dogwood – Cornus kousa, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of a seed
Hope (46) Golden Rain Tree – Koelreuteria paniculata, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of seeds
Hope (47) Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana, copyright Laura Fantini

Drawing of seeds
Hope (49) Castor Aralia – Kalopanax septemlobus, copyright Laura Fantini