Native Plants of Japan

About this Exhibition

ASBA artists in Japan have prepared a group of native plant paintings to be exhibited at Makino Memorial Garden Gallery in Tokyo, from Apr. 28 to Jun 24, 2018.  The Garden is named after Tomitaro Makino, respected worldwide as the father of Japanese systematic botany. He was also a talented illustrator. This makes the garden a perfect venue for continuing to tell the story of Japanese plants through botanical art. Some of Japanese native plants such as Camellia, Lily, Cherry-blossoms, Hosta, and Maple are popular as garden plants throughout the world. This exhibition will be showing these plants as well as other Japanese native plants named by Tomitaro Makino.


Camellia japonica var. decumbens is called Yuki-Tsubaki in Japanese. "Yuki" means " Snow", and as the name indicates, it lives in the snowy region. In winter, Yuki-Tsubaki is pressed down to earth, covered with heavy snow. As spring approaches, and snow starts to melt, its branches would lift themselves up from the ground and put on bright flowers. It is one of the most adored flowers which hints the arrival of spring. Yuki-Tsubaki is known to be a fairly easy specimen to create variations, and it has contributed to breeding of double blooms. 

Camellia japonica var. decumbens, watercolor on vellum, © Akiko Enokido

Mieko Ishikawa’s beautifully executed painting of this endemic Japanese Symplocos shows its flowers and berries as they grow on the tree, and breaks them out in close-up views. She deftly captures the back-curled, shiny leaves and confidently manages the complexity of many leaves and flowers in this highly detailed and naturalistic watercolor. Symplocos kawakamii is listed as Critically Endangered on the Red List of Japanese Threatened Plants.

Symplocos kawakamii, watercolor on paper, ©Mieko Ishikawa

Iris sanguine var. tobataensis is called Tobata Ayame in Japan. Tobata Ayame is recorded in a document published in 1875, found in a natural field of Tobata, Kitakyushu-city in Fukuoka Prefecture. As the region went though modern development and industrialization, the plant was thought to be extinct. But fortunately, it was found growing in a local farm 80 years later. Since then, local people have been taking care of the legendary flower. In 2009, this plant was recognized as a new native species of Japan.

   Iris sanguine  var.  tobataensis , watercolor on paper, ©Yuko Inujima

Iris sanguine var. tobataensis, watercolor on paper, ©Yuko Inujima

There are 21 species of genus Mitella in the world: 12 are in Japan, 11 being native Japanese species. Dr. Makino made this particular drawing in early 1900s as Mitella japonica. But later on, this species was classified in more detail. The petals are slit in 5 wing-like shapes which have glandular spots, and there are dense processes on the seed. From these diagnostic characteristics, this Mitella was classified as Mitella stylosa var. makinoi. He used a very fine brush and sumo ink. His illustrations are extremely precise and are able to identify individual species with accuracy . Makino's magnificent  illustrations have inspired admiration and respect for over 100 years.

  One of the historical images drawn by Tomitaro Makino for  Icones Florae Japonicae  (1902) and on view in the Gallery.  Mitella stylosa  var.  makinoi , ink on paper, ©Tomitaro Makino

One of the historical images drawn by Tomitaro Makino for Icones Florae Japonicae (1902) and on view in the Gallery. Mitella stylosa var. makinoi, ink on paper, ©Tomitaro Makino


ASBA artists in Japan 

Steering Committee

Mieko Ishikawa
Akiko Enokido

exhibition Venue

Makino Memorial Garden and Museum, Nerima, Tokyo

  Photo courtesy of Akiko Enokido

Photo courtesy of Akiko Enokido


Makino Memorial Garden and Museum, Tokyo Municipal Ward 6-34-4 Nerima-ku, Tokyo



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