Marianne North was born into a prosperous landowning family. Her father, Frederick North, was a Liberal Member of Parliament. She was raised in Norfolk and trained as a singer; but as her voice failed, her artistic talent found an outlet in flower painting. She made detailed reproductions of many plants, which she studied at various botanical gardens, that were highly valued in the era before photography.
Marianne travelled extensively with her father to Asia Minor and the Middle East, and after his death in 1869 continued to visit remote parts of ther globe in order to continue her study of botany and natural history. At Charles Darwin's suggestion she went to Australia in 1880, and for a year painted there and in New Zealand. She discovered the largest of all species of pitcher plants in Sarawak, and the capucin tree in the Seychelles Islands. Marianne returned to England and exhibited her drawings in London. She offered to give her collections to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and The North Gallery was erected at her own expense to house them. She wrote two volumes of memoirs, which were published posthumously.