Where The Elfin Skimmers Live (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

15 June 2013 finds me in one of my favorite places - knee deep in the spongy mattress of a sphagnum bog. I am painting Pitcher Plants in bloom near Albright, New Brunswick, at the edge of one of the tracts of the Grand Lake Meadows Protected Natural Area.

The waxy red lampshade-shaped Pitcher Plant flowers nod demurely from the curved tops of 30 cm tall stems, each in the centre of a half buried nest of pitcher-shaped leaves. These actually hold water and are lined with tiny curved hairs so that insects that slide in can't climb out. They are drowned and absorbed as nutrients for these extravagant plants.

The Sphagnum moss that forms most of the floating bog mat produces an organic acid that prevents decomposition and sequesters nutrients, so most plants that live in bogs are evergreen and have other adaptations for life in a low nutrient setting. The tiny carnivorous Sundews are also here, showing in my painting as bright red dots at
the edge of the water.

This bog is in a kettle hole, formed by the melting of a chunk of ice ground into the shale by a glacier and then melted, leaving a deep round hole filled with water - and gradually, over thousands of years, grown over by a mat of Sphagnum which supports the bog community.

As I entered the bog from the Black Spruce forest on the north side, my first few steps into the wet Sphagnum stirred up black muck, but I was soon out on the bog mat itself, which sank with my weight - but only so far. Clear water welled up around my legs but my feet didn't punch through the strong network of roots that lace the moss together.  I unfolded my metal stool and tried it out. It only sank halfway as I sat on it, and stayed like that during my three hours of work on the painting.

I love Bog Cotton! The white pompoms of this little sedge bob in the breeze. The streak of white fluff across the bog echo the white clouds that scud across the clubbed tops of the Black Spruces. The few open patches of water bring the blue sky down into the bog in my painting.

Tiny dragonflies disappear and reappear as the sun glints on their wings. These are the smallest dragonflies in North America, the Elfin Skimmer Nannothemis bella. The Bio-blitz people are pleased to find it here, as it is the first record for New Brunswick!  You can see photos of this delicate beauty at  http://bugguide.net/node/view/10887

Dear patrons and supporters,

I will be painting until 25 June at the New Brunswick Museum Bio-blitz, held this year in the Grand Lake Meadows Protected Natural Area near Fredericton, New Brunswick. Any paintings that remain unsold at the end of the Bio-blitz will be available for purchase after 25 June. This one has been spoken for - another one is on its way!


  1. Nice one, Aleta!! I'm curious: what are you referring to when you say "clubbed tops" of the black spruces?

  2. Tamiasciurus hudsonicus: the hyperactive architect of the Canadian North. "First the Squirrel invented the felt-tip marker, and drew a snazzy racing strip along its sides between the red and white fur. Feeling that if it looked that sharp, it ought to have accomplishments, it scouted out the nests of birds, and invented the raw-egg omelette. This achieved, it figured it had better obtain academic credentials, so it went into mycology, and revised the genus Russula by drying all the species in the branches of Fir trees. Needing an industrial base, it used a few sharp bites to the branch it was sitting on to create the maple sugar business. Its next goal was to succeed in land development, so it cut the cones off Black Spruces, producing a distinctively clumpy skyline that greatly increased real estate values, and then dug underground condominiums in the piles of resulting scales. Feeling the need to further control its environment, it lept onto the ears of passing Bears, and clung to their heads, shouting so loudly that they chose to hibernate for half the year, rather than going deaf by listening to Squirrels. Satisfied that this was just a start, it stood up on branches, right over there, telling everyone, including us, and except Martens, how invulnerable it was to predation."

  3. That story was written by my husband, Fred Schueler. Cone harvesting by Red Squirrels does indeed affect the shape of the tops of Black Spruces - the pruning makes them denser at the tops where the cones grow. Black Spruces that grow where Red Squirrens are not as numerous have a more regular shape. Also, slow-growing Black Spruces such as those that live in bogs have a very pronounced club-topped shape, as they are more strongly affected by the trimming of their cone-bearing twigs.

  4. Love the painting and the story. thanks Rae from Townsville, Australia

  5. Very Nice post!! one of my favorite places - knee deep in the spongy mattress of a sphagnum bog.

    Hardwood Mats


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