Mention "medicinal plants" and you're likely to conjure up images of folk doctors wielding salves and tinctures, practicing something more akin to witchcraft than science. But surveying cancer treatments alone, it's astounding how many of the compounds we use today were initially discovered in plants. The widely-used drugs vinblastine and vincristine, anti-mitotic compounds used to treat leukemia and other cancers, were isolated from the Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) in the 1950s. The breast, ovarian, and lung cancer treatment paclitaxel, another mitosis inhibitor, was found in the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) in 1967. Etoposide phosphate, an anti-tumor agent that disrupts proper DNA unwinding, was derived from podophyllotoxin which is produced by the mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). And that's just the start of a long list.
Cotton, Gossypium herbaceum
© 2010 Esther Klahne, watercolor on paper

Image: Courtesy of The NYBG
"The world...
Marijuana, Cannabis sativa
© 2010 Dorothy DePaulo, colored pencil on film

Image: Courtesy of The NYBG
linkurl:Pohnpei Primary Health Care Manual,;
Heirloom Tomato, Solanum lycopersicum
© 2009 Asuka Hishiki, watercolor on paper

Image: Courtesy of The NYBG
"Green Currency" opens on April 20, 2011 and runs through July 31, 2011 at The New York Botanical Garden on the Bronx River Parkway and features 43 works by artists from the American Society of Botanical Artists. For more information, see the exhibit's linkurl:website.;

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