A hand-colored, copperplate engraving based on an original watercolor by the naturalist artist Mark Catesby, features the flower of the Magnolia grandiflora tree. Catesby identified this particular species with a variant scientific name, Magnolia altissima, flore ingenti candido, and the common name "Laurel-Tree of Carolina." He illustrated other magnolia species as well, including the Magnolia altissimi, flore albo, which had been introduced to the artist by the Virginia botanist John Clayton. Catesby wrote: "Specimens of this Tree were first sent me in the year 1736, by my worthy friend John Clayton, Esq; of Virginia, and from the only Tree known in that country."
Catesby created the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America in his monumental work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, which was produced in London in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. The engraving shown here is from an oversized two-volume edition of that work published in 1771.