Here’s a little study of a beautiful wildflower of the Garry Oak Meadows — Erythranthe guttata, Yellow Monkey Flower. Phrymaceae.
The most dramatic part of this flower, (apart from the golden colour) are the deep crimson markings on the lower petals of the blossom, markings that lead an insect visitor to the nectar. Now, bees see things differently from us, so to see how a bee sees those markings would require both a UV filter and bee-vision filters. An interesting aspect to pursue!
One of the cool discoveries I made in observing the blossoms of this plant is that those markings differ from flower to flower. Here’s a small sample of some of the variations. I’ve morphed the colours in order to enhance the visibility of those markings.
I’ve dissected several blossoms, and another very cool aspect of these blossoms are the very hairy bulges on lower petals. Apparently, the hairs collect not only pollen from the flower’s own anthers — ergo, the plant can self-pollinate, but also pollen carried by incoming bees, so there’s cross-pollination too. Double reproductive security for this plant.
More surprises from this beautiful wildflower — the calyx, the little structure that holds the blossom and all its reproductive parts, inflates after the flower has finished its display, enclosing and protecting the seed pod within its papery cover. I’ve made a short animation to explore this wonderous aspect of the flower’s life cycle. It’s entitled Postcript because it’s the last part of the flower’s life cycle.
I haven’t added anything to my site since he exhibition at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, so I thought I would start with some spring wildflowers from the native Garry Oak Meadows from my neck of the woods.
The first image is a small bouquet of Camassia leichtlinii, (Great Camas), Lomatium utriculatum (Spring Gold), and Plectritis congesta (Sea Blush). These are merely 3 of the many wildflowers to be found in a Garry Oak meadow. Beautiful wildflowers much visited by a diversity of pollinators.
Thought I’d create a repeat wallpaper design from the flowers, and add to them the iconic and rare Garry Oak environment, suggested here by the acorns and leaves.
Not too long ago, I attended a wonderful and informative walk and talk at the UBC Botanical Gardens. The talk was given by the curator of the Westcoast native gardens, Ben Stormes. Ben is creating research Garry Oak Meadow so it is a work in progress, but nontheless, it is beautiful and I learned a great deal about this rare environment, which, like all things in nature, is shrinking because of habitat loss, development, pesticides, etc. A story we know all too well. I’m not going to end on a negative note because there are organizations, like the one on Vancouver Island, the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Teams, which are restoring these beautiful native habitats.
Young scientists visiting Lincoln Best’s and my exhibition at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. All photos taken by Gail Langellotto-Rhodaback, and used with her gracious permission.
More of Gail’s photos:
I haven’t been able to travel to Bend because of the Covid restrictions, so I’m always excited when visitors to the exhibition post their photos on social media and share their comments. For me, bees and flowers are totally engaging, both as research and as subject matter for my art practice. It’s really exciting when visitors to the gallery are inspired by the exhibition!
Have shamelessly neglected posting things on this website, the fall has been difficult, not least because of Covid. So, finally, here are some of the images I’ve been working on. Most of the images start their lives with a seed, seed head or pod and then other parts enter into play.
Installation shot, Pressed for Time, Seymour Art Gallery. Photo credit: Kara Wightman
The exhibition I am sharing with entomologist and friend, Lincoln Best opened on Sunday at the Seymour Art Gallery in North Vancouver. We had a great time at the vernissage! Thank you to all of you who came out to see the show. Exhibition continues at the gallery until July 21, 2018.
We are offering 2 workshops in tandem with this show–the first is on Sunday June 17, from 2-4 pm. A free drop-in drawing and printmaking workshop with artist Cyndy Chwelos, for participants of all ages. Everyone welcome!
The second free workshop is on Saturday, June 30, at 2:00 pm. Artist and author, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker) of Victory Gardens for Bees fame, and educator and naturalist Erin Udal will engage participants in an interactive, fun workshop on identifying native bees and gardening for pollinators! Registration for this workshop is suggested and can be made through Seymour Art Gallery
Projection of Thimbleberry blossom: part of the exhibition.
I placed a blossom on my scanner to see what would happen to the anthers — would the blossom die, would the anthers open and shed their pollen? Leaving the blossom on the scanner, I scanned the progress of development over several hours and then joined the still images into a video. (With many thanks for Ace Media for the video help).
A print of an enlarged dissection of a Cranesbill Geranium blossom. One of the tricky aspects of printing on this thin gampi paper is that the printer does not like it, and the inkheads of the printer tend to clog and splotch, often resulting in a totally messed up and unusable print. You can see the bottom edge of the image has black spotches.
Cranesbill Geranium, in process, printed on gampi, 34″x 22″.
Close up detail of the bottom left section of the larger print (above). I’ve tried to rescue the print by creating little drawings around the ink splotches. Not sure if this is successful, but I am going to use the image anyway as evidence of this inevitable part of the printing process.
A little earlier in the season, the bumblebees had been very active on my rhodos and azaleas. I noticed that the bees would dive into the blossom head first to get at the nectar at the center of the bloom, but they would also hover at the ends of the long stamens, performing arial gymnastics, and buzzing away in a different tone,’sonic pollinating,’ coaxing the anther to release its pollen. This is so cool to watch. The change in tone is clearly audible. I read an article by Buchmann et als that states that bumblebees don’t actively collect pollen from rhodos, but these little guys certainly did and do.
Yesterday I went to the UBC Farm market to purchase their wonderful vegetables, herbs and flowers as I often do. Yesterday’s super treat was the Honey Extraction and sale by Jenny Ma of Vancouver Honeybees http://www.VANCOUVERHONEYBEES.com.
After the recent articles on pesticides and the dire problems with disappearing bees, it was so refreshing to experience something beautiful and joyful. Jenny uses “top bar hives” for her bees. She brought a demonstration hive for the participants to see; a hive which she actually made herself! She says the top bar hive is the least intrusive method of managing her charges. The bees form the wax comb themselves to the sizes that they naturally need, so the final honeycomb is more freeform in shape than the foundation-based Langstroth hives that are widely used in beekeeping. The bees have to work harder to make their own wax comb, but it is fantastic to see their own architectural creations.
It was great fun watching Jenny go through the extraction process and to bring home jars of honey and pollen still in the comb. The honey is so fragrant, it’s amazing!
“Golden, gilded, glad (2)” : last year, I posted a poem “Bees” by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, from her book entitled “The Bees”. Couldn’t resist using her work again as title to this post. Here’s an extract of the poem:
March 9. A beautiful day finally after some grey days of rain. And wow! I came upon a little patch of crocus in my neighborhood, no more than 2 metres square, and there buzzing away, hard at work, were a dozen or so honeybees. I only had my cell phone with me, but couldn’t resist taking some photos of this year’s first sighting (for me, that is). Some of the bees were covered in pollen, and on others, I could see that they already had the beginnings of a pollen load forming in the pollen baskets of their back legs. What a treat.