PHO2008_1774.jpg Ellis Rowan. Collection of Puke Ariki (PHO2008-1774).

From the look of the delicate woman portrayed in this photograph, it is hard to imagine her travelling throughout Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and New Guinea. In fact, Ellis Marian Rowan, the wife of Captain Frederic Charles Rowan of the New Zealand Armed Constabulary, spent a large portion of her life travelling, 'hunting' local flowers and studying them for paintings.

Inspired by her father's interest in botany, Rowan was immediately drawn to flowers and when she was twenty-one she travelled to England to study painting, specialising in botanical painting. As the wife of an officer, Rowan found she had a lot of time to hone her skills and was encouraged by famous botanical artists Marianne North and Robert Thornton to travel and depict flowers in their natural habitats. Armed with new skills and techniques, Rowan went on to become one of the most popular botanical artists of the late nineteenth century.

After travelling and painting for more than ten years she wrote a book, A Flower Hunter in Queensland and New Zealand, in which she describes her travels to various towns and cities including New Plymouth, Pātea, Hāwera. Her memoir can be found in Puke Ariki's Heritage Collection along with an original floral print and a transcript from her first visit with her husband to Taranaki during the Taranaki Wars.

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