Scarred Aspen (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

27 August finds me looking into the woods from the side of Frontier Rd, southeast of Carlsbad Springs, in eastern Ontario. Each time Fred and I drove past this tree today I've admired it - must be making a statement, to the artist in me at least, and perhaps of something deeper that does not come to me in words. 

The Aspen rises from waves of Frangulous Buckthorn foliage which is in the process of engulfing the native willow bushes and Red Osier Dogwood, and the shadowed trunks of other Aspens make blue-grey lines in the background as the sunset twinkles through their branches. The space that makes for distance in my painting is an opening cleared by bulldozers, perhaps last summer. It enters at an angle from the road and then turns and runs straight, deep into the property, but that's not obvious from the road. For now I'll stay by the road to paint the scarred Aspen.

Today we are participating in a "Bio-blitz" - an all-taxon biological survey of a place we are not
allowed into. This may sound strange, but the owner, an Ottawa-area construction company, prefers to control information about the property and has not given access permission for the Bio-blitz…. so today we're making observations around the perimeter.

Several naturalists come and go at the Bio-blitz headquarters, an industrial shed on the Boundary Road side. So far they have found a diversity of plants and insects including a couple of bushes of "Peach-leaf Willow, a magnificent Elm Sawfly, Alder Sawflies, a Black Swallowtail and Mourning Cloak Butterflies, Leopard Frogs, Spring Peeper, Gray Tree Frogs, an uncommon pink milkwort Collinsea verna, many mushrooms, an orange striped Arion slug, and all along the side of Frontier Road, ball-headed "Strawberry Clover", native to Eurasia and new to Ontario in 2001. 

From Owen Clarkin's notes: 
"- caterpillar-like larval Dogwood Sawflies going to town on the foliage of Red-Osier Dogwood.
- In an inverse-like similarity to Emerald Ash Borer, Bronze Birch Borer going to town on the invasive dominant white-barked birch: European Silver Birch (Betula pendula).
-I almost can't go anywhere without finding at least one escaped Japanese Tree Lilac ....Invasive in the Ottawa area!!
-beautiful Bottle Gentians on the bank of a ditch.
-A Bald-Faced Hornet, Dolichovespula, found me, landed on my arm, and really wanted to introduce herself, but my shirt was too thick.
-A Dog-Day Cicada, Tibiacen, landed on my shoulder and was much more civilized in its manner."

Alder Sawfly larvae, photo by Owen Clarkin
None of us have yet made any discoveries that might directly prevent the tract from being permitted for a dumpsite, but we are adding to the list of species at some risk that are present at the site, and finding out as much as we can about what lives here.  I think that the geology (Leda Clay), seismic activity of the area, and its high water table so obviously make it unsuitable for a landfill, as ruled in the early 1980's. 

As Fred explores the roadsides of the perimeter of the property, he notices the slogan emblazoned on the side of a passing garbabg truck "It's got to go somewhere"…..the topic is still open for discussion.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is for sale for $350 to support our work with the community of Carlsbad Springs. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me 


  1. The Dogwood Sawfly larvae I found are evidently Macremphytus tarsatus

  2. This is a gem... I wish I had painted it. One of my favourites Aleta. You captured the colours perfectly. The tree is three dimensional.

  3. The aspen painting is absolutely stunning, Aleta. And the sawfly larvae are almost pretty. But what is that second photo? It almost looks like more larvae of some sort, gathered together to make a ball.

  4. That is the Eurasian "Strawberry Clover" that I mention in the text. We thought it was some sort of virus or gall - but that's the bloom - and it's really a kind of clover!

  5. Interesting finds. Dumps are a perennial problem for rural folk. POWER in Georgetown formed many years ago to successfully stop a quarry becoming a dump for Toronto's garbage. And then there is the Tiny Township Site 41... Dumps should be called Aways. Where city folk throw their garbage to make it disappear. Lovely painting.


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