Monday, July 16, 2007

July Afternoon - Compass Plant

This has been a wonderful summer for both Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) and Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant)! They are robust and showy every where we've ventured this July.

We arrived at Prairie Hill Farm in October of 2002 and I scattered what seed I'd managed to collect, in bare places around our gravel hill side prairie. Some of that seed was Compass Plant.

"July Afternoon - Compass Plant"
(oil on canvas 6"X8")

Compass Plant is a Tallgrass Prairie icon. And it is a stately plant, providing a great perch high among the forbs and grasses it competes with. It provides grassland birds with a great source of seed throughout the fall and early winter. And I particularly love its great thick/leathery leaves, almost huge oak-like in presence.

My first Compass Plant bloomed on our prairie this summer, right where I'd spread those seeds in the fall of 2002. We celebrated! It was great! It's still putting on blooms and ignoring the arid weather we've been experiencing for the 2nd summer in a row.

The leaves show readily the year or two after a seeding. For the next 2 years or so they (their leaves) become large and prominent. But you must be patient! Finally in their 4-6 year they put up a mighty stock of flowers - they have arrived!

I painted this small pochade with my camera as "the composer". I find it difficult to isolate the flowers and grasses on the Tallgrass...the camera's lens compresses it for me and I can move about to get a pleasing composition I can work with. I included a Butterfly Milkweed in the back ground as a grounded spot of heavy color and shape, but left it out of focus to give the long awaited Compass Plant leaves and blooms a much deserved place in the back lit spotlight.

Keep cool this summer and look about and enjoy it all!

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