An HMN’s Botanical Artistry


The following is written by local historian, author and activist Nancy Sorrells as reprinted from the Virginia Native Plant Society’s Spring 2016 edition of their quarterly newsletter: Sempervirens. Check out the entire newsletter and consider joining the Virginia Native Plant Society! You’ll find lots of items of interest here to Virginia naturalists. Sempervirens editor Nancy Sorrells has given several presentations to the Headwaters Master Naturalists.

Betty Gatewood is a member of the Headwaters Master Naturalists, CoHort I.

Gatewood’s Witch Hazel Part of Exhibit at U.S. Botanic Garden

Betty Gatewood has been smiling ear-to-ear since receiving the news that her watercolor of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana var. virginiana) would be among approximately 70 pieces of art displayed in the Flora of the National Parks exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington. The exhibit, which opened Feb. 18 and runs through Oct. 2, is a celebration of the National Park Service Centennial and will showcase many of the special plant species and habitats found in the 409 Park Service sites across the United States and its territories.

For Betty, the outdoors and art go hand-in-hand, whether it is observing, hiking, skiing, teaching, journaling, or painting. In both the classroom and the field, she learns from and teaches about the beauty and intricacies of the natural world. She is a member of the Shenandoah Chapter.

Most recently she enjoyed being an education and interpretive park ranger at Shenandoah National Park. The park and the Appalachian Trail is where she observed and painted the fall-blooming Witch Hazel. According to Bill McLaughlin, curator of plants with the U.S. Botanic Garden, it was her depiction of the real-life plant, complete with its insect-eaten leaves, flowers, and seed capsule, that wowed the selection committee and led the group to vote unanimously to include Betty’s painting in the centennial exhibit. “I do like to tell the story of the whole plant,” said Betty.

betty gatewood.crop

Betty Gatewood

Although she has enjoyed creating botanical art for years, Betty honed her skills by taking several classes with Flora of Virginia chief illustrator Lara Call Gastinger. “She helped me understand the life story, anatomy, and personality of the specimens we worked with. I’ve been producing and enjoying the journey of botanical illustration ever since.”

Society members might recognize Betty’s style, as she has illustrated two of our Wildflower of the Year brochures.
— Nancy Sorrells

Top photo: Witch Hazel in flower. (Illustration by Betty Gatewood)