Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ontario 2: Northern Wildflowers

More from the Canada trip:
Anybody who's read this blog knows I can't resist a good garden, and the wildflowers in the north woods in late August was gardening at its finest. In the evenings when everyone else in our group read around the big table, I tended to sit with my sketchbook, squinting in the gaslight at some bit of a plant that I'd picked up that day.

Bunchberries in full bloom lined all the paths and grew in patches throughout the woods ... at least the part of the woods that were "walkable." I was so taken with these little guys, and wonder how well they would grow in a southern garden. They'd be a nice addition to my shady wildflower border!

One day, on a little sandy spot where we'd beached the boat for a bit, we found this little shrub. I could not figure out what it was! It was covered with what looked like tiny green pine cones, but wasn't any kind of conifer that I'd ever seen. I took my sketchbook and a leaf (that was stuck onto a piece of strapping tape and then covered with saran wrap ... I need to come up with a better way for samples!)... to the Voyageurs National Park office when we got back to Minnesota. The ranger there was REALLY helpful in identifying it as an alder bush. Of course, she knew immediately what it was ... and she said she grew up calling them "Barbie Doll Pine Cones." She also helped me identify some other wildflowers that I didn't know, even coming outside with me to track down a plant or two to look at, digging through bookshelves, and calling co-workers over for further consultation. Big smiles to the Voyageurs staff last Sunday!!! :-)

Wildflowers were also abundant in International Falls. This spotted jewel weed, or spotted touch-me-not grew along the driveway of the house there. Mom said she always called it "wild snapdragon" because the mature seed heads explode when you squeeze them. They were graceful and delicate and their coloring was exquisite ... of course, by the end of the week I was just too tired to do a good job with the details in the painting!

Posted by Picasa


annie said...

I am glad you are back. I love looking at the detail in your work. What lovely flowers you saw.

The alder tree (was that the name?) is not showing on my screen for some reason. I'd love to see it. Isn't that a posionous plant? Alder?

PS -- I too had to put the word verification tool on my blog. I had only gotten one spam comment, but I figured more would follow.

Laura said...

Girl, you're on fire! These are gorgeous! I hope my stuff looks this good when I'm finally able to take a vacation in October!

Linda said...

Annie -- I don't know why you're not able to see the alder -- maybe you're too far south? (sorry, that was a BAAAD joke.) Anyway, you asked a great question, and I ended up having to research this plant a bit further, first to find out more exactly what KIND of alder it was (Green Alder, AKA American Green Alder, Mountain Alder, Tag Alder, Hazel Alder, AKA Alnus viridis ssp. crispa). This kind of research makes me happy (I can be such a weirdo sometimes!) As a result, however, I can now say that this plant is probably toxic, or at least pretty unfriendly to humans, and therefore should not be snacked on; the bark is very astringent, and the Native Americans used the plant medicinally (I believe one source said as a laxative, but I'm not certain.)

Anyway, in doing the search I found the most wonderful web site, which I KNOW Laura will also love, if she hasn't found it already. It is The Plants National Database at:

I will be adding that link to my sidebar for my OWN convenience! So, thank you for asking!

By the way, if anyone is curious, bunchberries are ALSO toxic, despite their cheery appetizing red color!

I know, I already said it ... I can be such a weirdo ...

janey said...

Oh my but these are so sweet and pretty. And there are so many of them. I'm a city kid (once upon a time) with a green thumb. I can grow anything and actually did in a fire escape garden in NY. I love reading about other people's gardens and flowers and seeing the drawings is even better.

Linda said...

Janey -- you lucky girl with the green thumb! Now I know who to call when nothing seems to be thriving as it should...

Chuck Rose said...

Linda these are great field sketches. Jewel weed is a family favorite here too. It seems to me, no matter where you go, park rangers are always ready with info and a smile.

BTW, how did you get word verification added to your comments? The spammers are getting out of control and this seems like a good way to handle it.

Laura said...

Linda, you are right! I love that link (the Plants Database) and just added it to my Yahoo page favorites--many thanks for sharing this with us!

Teri C said...

Linda, these are beautiful nature sketches. I love doing these too. Glad to hear you are getting over your 'fear' of sketching in front of people. I am also working on it, so lead me on!