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Leaf of the Day: Snakewood Leaf 2 and the wonders of metamorphosis.

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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Leaf of the Day: Snakewood Leaf 2 and the wonders of metamorphosis.

Today I had the good fortune to see a butterfly hatching and, purely by coincidence, a caterpillar transforming itself into a chrysalis too. There are two chrysalis cases at the Gardens which Joel cares for with great solicitude and affection. He collects the butterfly eggs and raises them, through caterpillar stage, up to chrysalis stage, when he brings them to the cases. He nurtured and liberated over 1000 of these beautiful creatures last year.The butterfly garden at Leu is his domain. I was asking him more about the milkweeds which are the food source for the Monarch butterfly and as we were looking at the line of exquisite jade Monarch chrysalis, one began to emerge.

It is a fascinating sight. The butterfly at this stage has tiny crumpled wings and a huge black and white spotted body which over about 15 minutes pumps liquid into the wings along the main veins expanding them to their full width and beauty. We could see the butterfly experimentally curling and uncurling its divided proboscis which has to join into a tube before it can feed. At the same time a stripy caterpillar was busy shrugging off its striped coat and transforming itself into a chrysalis.

I held in my hand the tiny concertinaed skin of the caterpillar complete with little antennae and legs.
We may have all seen this on the TV and "know" about this extraordinary aspect of nature but to see it happening in front of you is riveting and it's so quick. I was so busy watching I forgot to take more photos.

I did drag myself away to find the Snakewood again and then I bumped into Pedro who tells me that snakes like to hide in the snaky Snakewood roots and he has seen a couple of old shed skins there, which followed on neatly from the butterflies and also my thoughts about the leaves looking like sloughed skins. It's a good time of year to consider renewal and re emergence.
He also showed me some beautiful little orchids which have just sprung up in one of the borders on the drive. I have not yet discovered out what they are.

I made a couple more root sketches around the Gardens which I will post tomorrow...Meanwhile I sketched another Snakewood leaf and there is a series about Darwin on the radio this week to catch up with, and I read some more about Burchfield...Oh much to do/ read/ listen to/ watch/ draw/ design/ write etc etc ... so little time.... I am constantly running out of time and the white rabbit in Alice came to mind... so with apologies to Tenniel here is my own Time Keeping Rabbit reminding me that I should get a move on, which I think I will now use as shorthand in the posts, signifying lack of time.

I will have a few others too, each describing my day, sloth (often), procrastination (every day), despair (sometimes), inspiration ( fleeting), ..with a key in the side bar. I need never write again! I could just use pictograms..Hmm that's a nice little project for a rainy day.


Snakewood Leaf Sketch

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Blogger Tessa said...

Wow! Wonderful photos! This is my first time visiting your blog- I must say, I really enjoyed my visit :)

7 January 2009 at 18:13  
Blogger Tessa said...


I just had to comment again about how impressed I am with your blog- and your talent as an artist. I have long wished that I could draw what I see! I did sketch a couple things a few years ago, when I needed to id a plant and wanted to be a little more creative than just taking a photo :) No where near your talent, but it was fun. Maybe I'll post some pics of those drawings- just for fun. Know you have inspired me!

7 January 2009 at 18:21  
Blogger Florida Nature Photography said...

Wonderful blog, and I've been a subscriber (RSS feed) for some time now :-) Your orchid is a lawn orchid (also known as a soldier orchid) and it's scientific name is Zeuxine strateumatica. See more photos on my website - :-) Cheers!

8 January 2009 at 17:22  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thanks to you both. I am glad you are enjoying the blog.Go on Tessa get the pencils out...Rich thanks for the identification. It's all still so new to me here.I sometimes wonder what the locals think to my gasps of awe and wonder at what they consider commonplace and I know I do get things wrong..all help gratefully recieved!

11 January 2009 at 23:54  

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