Hairy Willowherb (watercolor 4 x 6 in.) SOLD!

26 September finds us parked along Highway 102 so that I can paint the blooming willowherb that Fred picked about 15 minutes ago where we'd stopped at the Highway 101 interchange to check a patch of tall Spartina grass which might have been Phragmites. 

We are now parked on the shoulder of Highway 102, just southeast of the Sackville River, at a real Phragmites stand that looks to be of the invasive kind. I decide that I must paint the willowherb right away, rather than waiting until we arrive at our next camp, because it may wilt. The flowers are larger and showier than those of Fireweed, to which it is closely related, and i remember that i'd had a difficult time painting Fireweed in 1984 because it wilted so easily.  

Choosing the tip that gives me flowers in all stages, and popping it directly into the hole in an electronics bubble pack with a dribble of water, I'm very pleased to see the flowers which had begun to droop perking up noticeably, and so I begin to paint, without having been able to find my pencil and eraser. I'll just have to be very careful where I place the paint, triangulating among the other shapes that I see - a hefty challenge for an artist who is suffering from the onset of what she knows will be a dreadful cold/flu because of what it did to her husband!

I can't paint in the van as it rocks with the passing of each truck, so I sit on a folding stool beside the open door with my subject on the seat and my water bottle in the armrest. While he waits for me to finish with the flowers, Fred gets the Peterson wildflower guide to look up the name of this plant. It turns out to be Hairy Willowherb, with no mention its occurrence in the Maritime Provinces, so he plugs in our internet stick and does a web search on "Epilobium hirsutum" and "Nova Scotia". The top hit is a Facebook page calling for pictures of rare Nova Scotia plants for an electronic field guide. He writes to them and the Nature Nova Scotia list, from which Christopher Majka replies that our record is 15.4 km from the northeasternmost of four known Nova Scotia records of this plant.

We wonder, if we found it by stopping to look for something else, how frequent it may be along superhighway roadsides. We all whizz past these so frequently, but stop so rarely, making them one of the most-seen but less-studied habitats, and they're exposed to a constant influx of wind- and vehicle-borne seeds, so many plants may be established that nobody ever sees (and this may be equally tre of introduced snails and slugs).

NOTE: I finished the seed capsules the next day, and even two days later, still with its cut stem in the bubble pack, the buds of my Hairy Willowherb are continuing to open and the first ones haven't wilted.


  1. Isn't it a lovely little thing? Fascinating theory you have about the roadside habitat. I think you've got something there. Keep us posted.



Post a Comment

What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?

Popular posts from this blog

Cooper Marsh Late August

White Water Lily

Little Marsh in Limerick