Plants of Pompeii: Ancient and Modern Medicinal Plants

Saturday, April 1, 2017 to Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Church Exhibition Gallery, Lyman Plant House

Intro | Exhibit Panels | Plant Labels | Plant Portraits

Ancient Pompeii was famous for its gardens and flower culture. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79 AD preserved evidence of daily life in Pompeii and surrounding towns of Oplontis and Herculaneum. Early excavations revealed frescos depicting plants, many accurately enough that we can recognize genera and some species.

Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski, the pioneer of garden archeology, used sophisticated techniques such as analysis of pollen and carbonized roots, fruits, seeds, and stems, as well as plaster casts of root cavities to determine specifically which species the early Pompeiians grew and used.

This exhibit features plant portraits created by Victoria I and Lillian Nicholson Meyer for Jashemski’s book A Pompeian Herbal. The illustrations portray medicinal plants identified in the excavations and those that still grow in the area today. The text, adapted from the book, documents the varied ways both the ancient Romans and the modern Pompeians have used these plants. Many of them can be found in the Botanic Garden’s beds and greenhouses, or perhaps in your own garden.

Common hollyhock