Magnificent  Trees of the Western Ghats 2018

Written by Divya Mudappa & TR Shankar Raman, Botanical Illustrations by Nirupa Rao, Additional sketches by Sartaj Ghuman, published by the Nature Conservation Foundation

A watercolour illustrated book documenting 30 iconic trees native to the Western Ghats, through 80 illustrations of the tree form, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds

Illustrations from the book were also used to make educational posters in English and Tamil (please view gallery below)

  • Proceeds go toward the Anamalai Rainforest Restoration Trust

  • As many of these trees grow in dense forests and are too tall to photograph, the book is a landmark effort to portray them in their entirety. Sketches were made on site, in deep collaboration with naturalists Mudappa and Shankar Raman. 

  • In the words of noted environmentalist Pradip Krishen:  “I am particularly delighted to discover Nirupa Rao’s illustrations, which combine a beautiful lambent quality with what is obviously the result of careful study. Her rendering of light and texture and translucence is delicious! Botanic artists of this calibre are rare in this country, probably for the same sorts of reasons that we turn our backs on our indigenous plant wealth…”  [...] “It’s taken almost two centuries for a Nirupa Rao to arrive on the scene to pick up the threads of their [19th c artists’] work and I won’t be at all surprised if she sets off a whole new trend in botanical illustration in India. I’m going to look out for her!”


Fantastical Plants of the Western Ghats 2019

Illustrated by Nirupa Rao, Text by Suniti Rao, Research by Siddarth Machado and Prasenjeet Yadav, Supported by National Geographic Society

A watercolour illustrated book on 'fantastical' plants of the Western Ghats—from carnivores to parasites to flowers that stink of rotting flesh, 

aimed at changing peoples' perception of plants as passive and devoid of agency

The book is currently being translated into Kannada, for distribution among schools in the Western Ghats​ (please view gallery below to see outreach activities)

Some excerpts, in no particular order:



An environmental and conservation education program for school children living in conflict-prone villages around wildlife reserves, aimed at nurturing tolerance and coexistence 

(please view gallery below to see the program in practice)

  • Collaborators: Conservationist Dr Krithi Karanth and photographer/educator Gabby Salazar

  • Co-created a plant module to complement their existing animal module

  • My digital illustrations were turned into games that help children learn about their surroundings in a fun way

  • By 2020, the program will have reached 400 schools across Karnataka and Maharashtra, with plans to expand further

               Participated in a multi-disciplinary 'Plant Humanities' program aimed at studying the intersections between botany and human culture, with a view to understanding how these connections can be re-invigorated. My work was due to be exhibited in an exhibition starting March 2020 (now postponed due to COVID 19), as a contemporary parallel to legendary

19th-c botanical artist, Margaret Mee, at the Dumbarton Oaks Museum.


A Harvard University Research Center & Museum




Cover artwork for author Amitav Ghosh's new novel Gun Island, as well as artwork for re-jacketing 4 of his previous novels, published by Penguin-Random House


Medicor (a publication of Karolinska Institutet) (2015)

Harper's Bazaar India (2018)

Chickpea vegan quarterly (2017)


www.nirupa-rao.com | Botanical Illustrator

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