"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Leaf of the Day: Mexican Petunia and White Ibis

Today I worked in the morning to get the drawing done and then in the afternoon went to the lake for a break. In the heat of the early afternoon there was not much bird activity, just one funny little ibis. It must be a young one as it was rather scruffy with mottled grey brown neck feathers and not yet completely terrified of humans, as it was quite happy to potter about on the shore line with me close by, allowing me to do a small sketch.















Usually the ibis operate in small gangs, marching across lawns at regimental speed stabbing their beaks into the grass and muttering as they go. They are very comical. However this one was alone and hung around long enough for a quick drawing. Normally they are band box smart with red bills and red legs and glossy white coats.

When I see them I am always reminded of some old applique tapestries we used to have, depicting Egyptian gods. Thoth the ibis-headed god was definitely one of them. The Sacred ibis of Egypt is different from this little American White ibis. It has a more sinister apperance with a featherless black head and neck. Thoth was the god of wisdom and writing I seem to remember that he was supposed to have won us 5 extra days in the year in a gambling game with the moon.

I am hoping to find the American lotus flower soon so I can compose a hybrid "amerigyptian" homage painting to this ancient culture.

Hybrids can pose problems of course. My drawing today is a dangerous cross border invader. The Mexican Petunia ( ruellia) is classed a Category I invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. It is unwelcome for its tendency to "alter native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives"... just like the Brits on the Costa del Sol.
This innocent looking purple pink flower is seen in gardens and park borders all over Winter Park. Again it is a delicate flower that has to be drawn quickly before it shrivels up. I am now seeing the similarity in these one day wonders as they are from the same family, the acanthaceae, as was the Sky Flower.
Confusingly it is not the same family as the much loved hanging basket and window box petunia that we know in the UK. They are from the solanaceae family which include tobacco, potatoes,and tomaotoes.
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Mexican Petunia


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