Plant Paintings

Valentien Painting Samples

The exhibition contains 80 framed original watercolors of California plants, painted by A. R. Valentien from 1908 through 1918. Click on the links to see the sample paintings.

1. Adenostoma fasciculatum -- Chamise
2. Adiantum aleuticum --Five-finger Fern
3. Aesculus californica --  California Buckeye
4. Anemopsis californica -- Yerba Mansa
5. Asarum caudatum
6. Balsamorhiza deltoidea -- Balsam Root
 7. Berberis nervosa
 8. Bergerocactus emoryi -- Velvet Cactus
 9. Calochortus amabilis -- Diogenes' Lantern
10. Calochortus splendens -- Splendid Mariposa Lily
11. Calochortus venustus -- Butterfly Mariposa
12. Calochortus venustus var. eldorado
13. Calochortus venustus var. roseus
14. Cardamine sp.
15. Carpenteria californica -- Tree Anemone
16. Ceanothus prostratus -- Mahala Mat
17. Ceanothus tomentosus -- California Lilac
18. Chilopsis linearis -- Desert-willow
19. Cirsium occidentale -- Western Thistle
20. Clematis pauciflora
21. Coreopsis douglasii
22. Cornus nuttallii -- Mountain Dogwood
23. Cucurbita foetidissima -- Calabazilla
24. Cylindropuntia bigelovii -- Teddy Bear Cholla
25. Cylindropuntia wolfii -- Wolf's Cholla
26. Cylindropuntia wolfii -- Wolf's Cholla
27. Cynoglossum grande
28. Cypripedium montanum -- Mountain Lady's Slipper
29. Darlingtonia californica -- California Pitcher Plant
30. Dodecatheon clevelandii
31. Dudleya pulverulenta
32. Equisetum telmateia -- Giant Horsetail
33. Eremalche rotundifolia -- Desert Five-Spot
34. Eschscholzia californica -- California Poppy
35. Ferocactus cylindraceus -- California Barrel Cactus
36. Fouquieria splendens -- Ocotillo
37. Heracleum lanatum -- Cow Parsnip
38. Hesperocallis undulata -- Desert Lily
39. Heteromeles arbutifolia -- Toyon
40. Heuchera sanguinea -- Alum Root
41. Iris missouriensis -- Western Blue Flag
42. Lathyrus vestitus -- Wild Sweet Pea
43. Lewisia cotyledon var. howelli -- Howell's Lewisia
44. Lilium humboldtii ssp. ocellatum -- Humboldt Lily
45. Lilium rubescens -- Redwood Lily
46. Lillium washingtonianum -- Washington Lily
47. Linum lewisii
48. Lysichiton americanum -- Yellow Skunk Cabbage
49. Malacothamnus fasciculatus -- Chaparral Mallow
50. Mentzelia lindleyi
51. Mesembryanthemum crystallinum -- Crystalline Iceplant
52. Minuartia californica
53. Nassella pulchra -- Purple Needle-grass
54. Opuntia basilaris -- Beavertail Cactus
55. Panicum capillare -- Witchgrass
56. Penstemon grinnellii
57. Penstemon heterophyllus
58. Phacelia grandiflora
59. Pinus ponderosa -- Ponderosa Pine
60. Pinus radiata -- Monterrey Pine
61. Platanus racemosa -- Western Sycamore
62. Poa annua -- Annual Bluegrass
63. Polypodium californicum -- California Polypody
64. Populus fremontii -- Cottonwood, Alamo
65. Quercus chrysolepis -- Canyon Live Oak
66. Quercus kelloggii (spring) -- California Black Oak
67. Quercus kelloggii (fall) -- California Black Oak
68. Quercus lobata -- Valley Oak
69. Rhododendron occidentale -- Western Azalea
70. Rhus integrifolia -- Lemonadeberry
71. Romneya coulteri -- Coulter's Matilija Poppy
72. Romneya trichocalyx -- Hairy Matilija Poppy
73. Rosa californica  -- California Rose
74. Rubus parviflorus -- Thimbleberry
75. Sambucus mexicana -- Blue Elderberry
Saxifraga mertensiana (same as 52-- 2 spp. on one painting)
76. Sedum spathulifolium
77. Sequoia sempervirens -- Coast Redwood
78. Xerophyllum tenax -- Bear Grass
79. Xylococcus bicolor
80. Zigadenus sp.

Five-finger Fern

This cold-climate Maidenhair fern is abundant on damp forest floors and cliffs in northern California, and ranges north to Alaska and across the Rocky Mountains. In this and other maidenhairs, the spore-bearing tissues are concealed beneath the rolled-under edges of the fan-shaped leaflets.

Giant Horsetail

Horsetails evoke the artists’ renditions of primordial eras--and rightfully so, as the family dates back several hundred million years.Their reproductive system is primitive, producing spores in a conelike structure at the tip of the stem. However, they more frequently multiply asexually through rhizomes.

Purple Needle-grass

This beautiful native grass is found in oak woodlands, open areas, and chaparral at lower elevations in California and Baja California. Unfortunately, many species of grasses introduced from Europe and the Mediterranean have invaded habitats suited to our native grasses, competing with and excluding the native species. Grass seed from Europe got introduced early on with grains and fodder that was imported for livestock and spread across the California grasslands. Landscapers also have planted exotic grasses in yards and around buildings and these invade the canyons and surrounding wildlands, threatening our native plants.

Bear Grass

This member of the lily family persists for several years without flowering, suddenly giving rise to a showy flowering stalk which dies back after setting fruit. The leaves of Bear-grass were used by indigenous people to make water-tight baskets.

Mariposa Lily

Valentien especially enjoyed painting species of Calochortus, a stunning genus in the Lily family that displays its greatest diversity in California, including 65 species that show a dazzling panoply of variation. The name Calochortus comes from the Greek for “beautiful grass”; the latter refers to the linear, grass-like leaves. Many of these species are of special conservation status, as they are either threatened or endangered plants and often have a very specific, restricted distribution.

Washington Lily

The Washington Lily is the largest white lily native to the United States. It blooms during the heat of the summer in the chaparral and coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges.

Howell's Lewisia

Named after Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this species of Lewisia is a fascinating plant found clinging by a very stout taproot to rocky outcrops, wedged into crevices, and in cracks on canyon walls. The flowers with their pink and white candy-striping are charming and showy against the backdrop of a basal rosette of dark green leaves. This beautiful plant is a threatened species in northern California.

Matilija Poppy

Hairs on the sepals and slightly smaller flowers distinguish this poppy from its cousin, R. coulteri. It has a somewhat greater native range, from northern Baja California to Ventura County.

California Poppy

Nobody viewing a rolling landscape golden with these brilliant poppies would dispute its choice as California’s state flower. California Poppy is known to occur in nearly every county of the state, as well as outside the state boundaries. A self-seeding annual, sometimes resprouting from its sturdy taproot, it readily naturalizes where garden conditions are suitable.

California Pitcher Plant

The carnivorous California Pitcher Plant is endemic to the Klamath region of northwest California and southern Oregon, with a few disjunct populations. It is restricted to nutrient-poor soils in seeps usually called "Darlingtonia bogs." Insects enter the tubular modified leaves, which are nearly closed by a hood with transparent patches. Exhausted in the attempt to escape, they eventually light on the slippery wall of the leaf, where downward-pointing hairs force them to the pool of enzyme-laden water below.

Tree Anemone

The Tree Anemone, with its showy clusters of large white flowers is a threatened species of California. It is known from only seven occurrences in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and these are in areas threatened by development, logging, and grazing. It is in the same family as the better-known Mock Orange, and is also used as a landscaping plant, but unlike its relative, it keeps its dark glossy leaves year-round.


Toyon, a widespread member of the rose family, is a large shrub or small tree which is a fairly inconspicuous element of coastal scrub and chaparral until late in the season. Abundant clusters of bright red berries persist through the late fall and winter following the late summer flowering of this native shrub, giving it another common name, Christmasberry. The berries provide a source of food for migratory birds and winter residents.


The showy floral spikes of the California Buckeye will give way to large green pods, which in turn produce the shiny brown seeds--sometimes called horse chestnuts—that give the plant its name. Though all parts are toxic, the nut meal can be made edible by leaching, and was a food used by indigenous Californians. This winter-deciduous small tree is found in the mountains and foothills of central California.

California Lilac

This and other species of Ceanothus are common in chaparral on hillsides and mountains throughout southern California. At the peak of their springtime bloom the flowers can look like a purple mist over the hills. The name "tomentosus" refers to the fuzzy underside of the leaf.


Hummingbirds and desert visitors alike delight in the flame-like bloom of the Ocotillo, borne high in the air on spiny whiplike stems. The Ocotillo sheds its leaves during the hot dry months, and quickly takes advantage of scarce desert moisture by sprouting fresh leaves and flowers in as few as 72 hours after a rain.

Teddy Bear Cholla

The Teddy Bear Cholla is cuddly only in appearance, as it is abundantly armed with spines and hairlike glochids, to the dismay of any who approach too near. Detached stem segments often litter the ground around the plant, another hazard for passersby. This is the primary method of dispersal for this species, as these loose cactus joints may root wherever they are carried.

Beavertail Cactus

The vivid colors of the flowers of the Beavertail Cactus are due to a type of pigment known only in a few plant families. Although the lack of spines on this cactus give the plant a benign look, the Beavertail Cactus is well armored: thousands of hairlike spines, called glochids, are borne in circular patches on the pale blue-green pads.

Velvet Cactus

Thick stands of Velvet Cactus occur along steep ocean-facing hillsides where moist maritime fogs may encourage survival. From a distance, as sun filters through the multitude of golden spines, a colony of these cacti takes on a deceivingly smooth, velvety appearance. Threatened by development, collection for horticultural uses, and feral goats, the Velvet Cactus is found in southern San Diego County, on San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands, and throughout Baja California.

Balsam Root

Balsam-Root is so-called because of the sticky sap found in the taproot of the plant. Found on sunny slopes with well-drained soils in northwestern California, Oregon, and British Columbia, Balsam-Root’s showy blooms appear in spring and summer.

Western Thistle

Valentien has captured the coarse, bold beauty of this prickly, spiny plant, with its tightly-packed head of purplish-red disk florets.