Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beautiful Invader (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) SOLD!

17 June finds me at the South Nation River in South Mountain, Ontario - pushing through to the water edge through tall Calamagrostis that hold their grass flowers high above my head. I disturb a Bull Frog which squeaks as it splashes in.  Rich purple and dark green, Deadly Nightshade's flowers make a rich contrast with its leaves.  Serrated-edged Nettles are shoulder height, but wading in the river edge I step past them unscathed.

Now I can see Fred wading in search of mussel shells along the far bank near the bridge. Flowering Rush is just beginning to bloom, one plant in bud and one in flower.  Several more poke their green spears from the water, flat but thick and tender like garlic leaves. Two young Green or Bull Frogs escape unseen from the long grass of the bank into the water as I move down the bank toward the Flowering Rush that is fully open.

I've been in love with this plant since I painted it for my book "A Place to Walk" in 1994.  Native to Africa, Asia, and Europe, it was introduced in 1897 in Montreal and now occurs in 8 provinces and 14 states.  Away from the Great Lakes there are yet only scattered occurrences, probably from ornamental planting. Flowering Rush is endangered in Israel due to dwindling habitat.  We found references to the use of its tubers for food, but we haven't tried it, so I can't report what the flavour might be.

Flowering Rush is one of the characteristic invasive plants of the South Nation River, crowding out native shore vegetation.  However, it is truly lovely and has a tough root system that may prevent erosion.  I can see more leaves below the surface that have been dragged under by the increased current from recent rains. On 12 July 2005 when the river was lower, you could see the Flowering Rush all over the river bottom, in clumps, from bank to bank, the leaf tips just emerging from the surface. If the water level goes down this summer, their flowers should be spectacular!

Both Fred and I are struck by how little bird life there is.  No Kingfishers swooping with rattling calls from tree to tree and diving for small fish.  No songbirds heard except Robins and Redwing Blackbirds.  No insects noted, but then there is no wetland to speak of, just river rushing smoothly between treed shores of clay in an agricultural landscape.

Fred collected fresh Elliptio shells and one older shell of an Anadontoides ferruscianus, which may be a new species for this site.  He was hoping to find more of the big heart-shaped Lampsillis cf cariosa, the Yellow Lamp Mussel, which we've found a few of here before, but the water is too high for a better search.

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