Friday, December 31, 2010

Milkweed and monarchs

This is an illustration I did for a friend who is a natural areas steward here in the Chicago region. It's Asclepias exaltata, or woodland milkweed. The graceful, pendant flowers and finely-textured leaves are so different from the other members of the family, but when you look at the pods and flower interior, it's clear it is a milkweed. This species is fairly rare in our region; it's closely monitored by Plants of Concern, a regional rare plant monitoring program of the Chicago Botanic Garden. I have observed small populations (one or two plants) rebound after clearing of buckthorn and other non-native invasive species of brush. I believe it's primarily an edge or even a savannah plant.

The milkweed family is host to the beautiful, orange and black monarch butterfly, which means that's all the monarch eats - no milkweed, no monarchs! Monarchs migrate from Michoacan, Mexico, up to Canada every year, but their numbers are in decline because milkweed is considered a noxious weed by farmers and ranchers. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could allow a wild corner to help our pollinators? We need fruits and vegetables too, not just corn and beans! : )

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book is finished!

My trilliums book, a collaboration with Susan L. Post of the Illinois Natural History Survey, is now off the presses! A limited edition of 12, with three artist's proofs, half will go to Susan and the other half to people who have helped inspire my love of nature.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Losing Paradise? Endangered Plants Here and Around the World

The second stop of the international tour is the Chicago Botanic Garden's Joutras Gallery. The forty-four botanical illustrations were curated by jurors from the Smithsonian and the Center for Plant Conservation. The exhibit is sponsored by the American Society of Botanical Artists and will travel next to the New York Botanic Garden, then the Smithsonian's American Museum of Natural History, then an international venue still being confirmed.

My son Ian drove us down to the grand opening last October at the Missouri Botanic Garden. I hadn't been there since before he was born and I remember it feeling much larger than the 70-something acres it comprises. The Japanese Garden, with its Godzilla-sized koi, is much the same, even lovelier. And stunning Dale Chihuly glassworks were everywhere!

I'm still pinching myself that I was accepted into this amazing exhibit. There is even a full-color catalogue of the work available through the ASBA! I was back at the CBG last weekend just drinking in the talent and dedication and visionary appeal of the exhibit's fine artworks in all media.