It was back in the 1980s when I first saw the Blaschka Glass Models of Plants—commonly known as the “Glass Flowers”—at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The room that held the cases was old and dusty, but the specimens under glass were astonishing—dewy and green.

Imagine the most meticulously precise botanical engravings magically aerated into three dimensions, in colors of surpassing delicacy. Glass insects supped here and there. Overripe fruit was frosted with fuzzy mold. Hair-thin tendrils corkscrewed in space.