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'Flora of Virginia' opens at Library of Virginia

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch announced on Friday that the Library of Virginia's Flora of Virginia exhibit is not the kind of show anyone would expect from a library. It is much better than that.

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The exhibit, which opened March 17, will run through September 13, 2014. and is tied in with the Flora of Virginia project, which produced the 2012 volume, "Flora of Virginia," a reference book documenting the thousands of plant species, both native and naturalized of the Commonwealth.

The new reference book took over a decade to compile, costing in excess of $1.7 million in donations, grants and in-kind services. What is remarkable about this printed work is that this is the first comprehensive flora of Virginia reference book published since 1762, when a Virginian, John Clayton's sketches were compiled into a book on the state's flora.

Weighing in at a hefty seven pounds, the volume runs 1,554 pages and describes 3,164 plant species, along with their natural variants growing wild in the many diverse habitats of the state. While unwieldy to tote about with ease, it is a comprehensive and long-awaited reference for anyone interested in Virginia's flora.

The first printing of 3.500 copies has already sold out, and a second printing of 3,000 copies was finished in December, and included corrections to the text. Copies can be ordered at www.floraofvirginia.org for $89.99 plus tax and shipping.

Visitors will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of exhibits, some interactive, as well as clay sculptures, photographs and drawings, many quite detailed. The artistic displays are in part, botany lessons. One exhibit shows the five eco-zones in the state, with an explanation showing how each of the zones contributes to plant diversity across the state.

A number of the exhibits, geared toward younger visitors, are interactive. Young people can visit a drawing station where they can draw or sketch pictures from pressed specimens. Other interactive exhibits ask questions or present interesting facts about plants.

For history lovers, the exhibit has a treasure-trove of information that brings to life the history of botanical description and illustration. Visitors can also look into the personalities of the people who first discovered and described many of Virginia's plants, and how many of the plants were used.

Virginia's great diversity of plant and animal life in the Old Dominion is as varied as our history. So take an afternoon to explore our state from a different perspective, if you will, and you may find a few surprises, and have an enjoyable time, too.

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