Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winterberry Holly (ink & watercolour 4 x 6 in.)

19 November finds me at the Red Maple swamp on North Augusta Road, north of the Brockville Fairgrounds, admiring the fallen-leaf splendor of the Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata. Nobody ever sees the male plants of this wetland shrub, but every fall, spectacularly in some years, more modestly in others, such as this year, the female bushes bear this brilliant crop of berries.  It's a challenge to paint in its linearity, but the berries are prominent enough in their intensity of colour to hold their own in the busy linearity of stems and reflections.

This is the time when we pick the berry-laden twigs to bring them indoors for winter decoration. I don't put them in water, so the berries dry, wrinkled and spongy, and stay on the twigs, as bright as they were when fresh.

We've observed so much here since we moved to this area in 1978. We've heard Wood Frogs, Peepers, Woodcock, Barred Owls, Snipe, Leopard Frogs, Grey Treefrogs, and, in 2003 & 2005, Chorus Frogs here.
We've seen Snapping & Painted Turtles dead on the road, along with a Blackbill Cuckoo, Red Squirrel, Ruffed Grouse,  Woodchuck, Porcupine, Striped Skunk, Snowshoe Hare, Grey (black) Squirrel, and Raccoons. There's been a Snapping Turtle nesting on 21 June 1997, and Blue-spotted Salamanders, Coyote and Deer alive on the road.

On 1 April 1981 the late Mike Rankin picked the first pair of amplexed Wood Frogs ever noticed by science off the pavement here as he and Fred were heading out on a museum expedition to southwestern Ontario; on 27 September 1982 Fred picked up what was to turn out to be the last Pickerel Frog found in eastern Ontario near here, on 2 March 1987 the Red Maples were bent or broken down all along the road by an icestorm; on 29 July 1993 Rose van der Ham recorded Tansy as a very common roadside weed here; on 20 February 1998 the snowpack in a nearby Cedar bush held 69 L of water/sq m, with 5 cm of snow above the 11 cm ice lens from the January ice storm, which was supported above the frozen ground by 2 cm of coarse ice crystals; 17 May 2004 2 pairs of Canada Geese had 2 clutches of 4 goslings on the roadside of the Swamp; on 19 August 2007 the Buttonbush across the road from this Holly gleamed with rich lush foliage and green fruit, and on 2 June 2009 we first recorded the invasive Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, here.

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