Glass Fruit


A glass pear, Pyrus communis, afflicted with pear scab, caused by the fungus Venturia pirina. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

Thanks to Jessica Leigh Hester at Atlas Obscura for this:


A glass branch of a peach tree, Prunus persica, having a rough go of it. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

Feast Your Eyes on These Delicate Glass Models of Decaying Fruit

Blighted, century-old produce goes back on display for the first time in decades.

Fruits in Decay Strawberry

Glass strawberries, or Fragaria, gone white with imitation Penicillium. JENNIFER BERGLUND © 2019 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE

THERE’S SOMETHING A BIT BRAIN-SCRAMBLING about this particular buffet of fruit. If you’ve ever let something languish on the counter or in the fridge a little too long, the white fuzz blanketing the shriveling strawberries or the spots of rot on the surface of a pear might look fairly familiar. But there’s something else that doesn’t feel quite right.

“You almost expect to be able to smell it,” says Scott Fulton, a conservator at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. “We all know what a rotten apple smells like.” But the fruit Fulton has been working on doesn’t smell at all: It’s made of glass. Beginning August 31, 2019, it will all be behind glass, too, back on temporary exhibit at the museum after nearly two decades in storage.

The fruit models are part of the larger oeuvre of Rudolf Blaschka and his father, Leopold, Czech artists who spent five decades making plants out of glass. The museum has 4,300 of these detailed models, depicting 780 species and collectively known as the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants (more casually and affectionately, the “Glass Flowers”). As the conservator tasked with caring for all of the glass models, Fulton knows them well—and he knows they can be pleasantly disconcerting for visitors. The shriveling berries, the curling leaves, the textured bark—it all looks so true to life that it’s hard to process that they’re really, truly made of glass. “Your mind tells you that if you blow on a blossom or branch,” Fulton says, “it would move.”

The decaying fruits were made by Rudolf Blaschka between 1924 and 1932. Like the rest of the glass plant models, these gnarly specimens were commissioned by the first director of Harvard’s Botanical Museum, George Lincoln Goodale, as teaching tools. These were designed “to show fungi in particular, and also bacteria that infect the plants, and symptoms that they show,” says Don Pfister, a mycologist and curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium at Harvard. The collection highlights the strains of misfortunes that could befall an orchard, from peach leaf curl and gray mold to pear scab, fire blight, leaf spot, and shot-hole disease, which makes leaves look as though they’d been riddled with bullets. Blaschka sometimes used a single branch to illustrate the devastating progression of some pathologies: One, heavy with six apricots, shows the progression of brown rot, as it takes a fruit from healthy to totally mangled…

Read the whole story here.


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