March 12, 2010
This cheat grass (Bromus tectorum) is one of the first grasses to start growing in the Spring here in Denver. And it is the first one to go to seed as early as May. This is because it is not a native plant. It is an invasive grass that has become the most common plant in Denver alleys and along byways. It is crowding out the native grasses. Cheat grass differs from the native grasses in that it goes to seed twice a year. The native plants seed out in the fall, but cheat grass seeds out in the spring and again in the fall. This gives it an edge over the hardy native grasses, which typically are extremely diverse in species. Now there is mostly cheat grass wherever you see grasses greening up in the alleys. Yes, it is spring and the green is coming back. Sap is rising all around and I, too, hope to get some energy back as the weather warms up.
March 9, 2010
Most life processes are not visible to us. Yet, seeing how plants grow is one of the most fascinating things for me. I love to watch time-lapse images of plants sprouting, growing, moving. To see it happen is like watching a dance. I don't have the techno equipment to follow a bean plant as it grows, but I did do the low-tech, second grade science project of placing a broad bean seed inside a glass cup with some water. For this one, I logged and sketched it as it grew. Then I created this pen and ink illustration of the seed rooting and sprouting. I did this drawing to accompany a children's science article that I wrote about the growth process of seeds. Doesn't it look like a creepy little SF alien? Feed me, Seymour.
March 8, 2010
Painting is an ancient practice. Watercolor painting likely graced the walls of paleolithic caves in Europe. After all, mixing colored pigments with water is a simple process. Watercolor paints were used in creating manuscripts as early as Egyptian times, but especially in the illuminated manuscripts of the European Middle Ages. Watercolor paints, as we know them, owe their formula to painters during the Northern Renaissance who experimented with binders and mediums for painting. Thus watercolor as an art medium begins roughly at the time of the Renaissance. Albrecht Durer (1471–1528), a German Northern Renaissance artist, who painted several fine botanical, wildlife, and landscape watercolors, is considered one of the earliest watercolor artists.
March 4, 2010
There's no question that sustaining native plants is important. But when you connect it to the state of native insects, the presence and health of native plants becomes critical. Many insects have evolved to survive by eating only the plants in their native environments. When the number of native plants is reduced by invasive plants or by introducing non-native species as in gardening, the availability of edible plants for some insects is also reduced. This accounts for the reduction of numbers of diverse species in some areas. Killing off or driving off large numbers of native insects may have dire results for an ecosystem.