Bath painter Caroline Frances-King finds subject closer to home
Artist Caroline Frances-King spent eight weeks in China trying to find a rare plant in flower – only for one to appear less than 200 miles away in Britain.
The painter from Oldfield Park was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2009 to fund the stint in China, searching for a tree called emmynopterys henryi, which is noted for its rare flowering.
She travelled in the footsteps of the late 19th-century botanical explorer Augustine Henry, armed with paper, paintbrushes and a camera.
Caroline hired a guide and travelled deep into forest only to find that due to unseasonably hot weather the tree had flowered early, and she had missed her chance.
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After she returned to England, Caroline put all thoughts of being able to realise her ambition aside.
That all changed when, last month, she heard that it was now flowering in England after 30 years in Cambridge.
"Suddenly I heard that the tree I'd gone all the way to China to paint was flowering for the first time at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens," she said.
"I dropped everything and went straight over there. The 30-year old tree was in full bloom. It was wonderful. To hold these delicate star-shaped flowers in my hand, and smell their heady perfume is a dream come true."
Since its introduction, it has been recorded as flowering outside China less than a dozen times.
Caroline's painting will form part of an exhibition on botanical illustrations from China planned for 2014 in Bath.
To find out more about fellowships, go to www.wcmt. org.uk.