Flower Drawing in Your Nature Journal

Do you like flowers? Do you like drawing? If so then this video about flower drawing in your nature journal is for you!

First, it is important to understand some basic botany to help you draw flowers accurately. In addition to making your drawing better this will also help you understand plant families. However, we will keep the technical terms to a minimum.

Drawing Flowers: These three Botany terms help.

  1. Inflorescence. This is a grouping or cluster of flowers. Many “flowers” that we think of such as a sunflower are actually an inflorescence.
  2. Corolla. This is not the car by Toyota. The corolla refers to all the petals combined, whether they are fused together or not.
  3. Calyx. Similarly to the corolla this term refers to the next parts down. Underneath the petals on many flowers there are sepals. We can use the term calyx to refer to all the sepals whether they are fused or not.

flower drawing diagram showing inflorescence, calyx, and corolla

Now that we know some basic terms let’s start drawing flowers! We are going to do three plant families today and draw flowers representing each one.

Drawing Flower Families

First, let’s look at the amazingly diverse Malvaceae. This is the cotton family and currently contains around 4,225 known species! When drawing these flowers pay attention to the 5 petals, and the 5 to numerous male parts often forming a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Next, is the Solanaceae. This notorious family contains many edible plants such as tomatoes and poisonous ones. When drawing this flower family look for 5 part symmetry such as five petals, five sepals, and five male parts. The female part is usually solitary. Sometimes, the petals (corolla) form into a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Lastly, is the Boraginaceae. This family contains around 2,000 known species including borage, Pride of Madera, and Forget-Me-Nots. When drawing these flowers look for a scorpioid inflorescence. Also look for 5 lobed calyx and corolla. For more about the Boraginaceae check out the wikipedia page on this plant family.

For more flower drawing ideas check out this post: Botany Basics For Nature Journaling

Botany Basics For Nature Journaling

In this video we learn botany basics to help you understand flowers. In so doing we can draw them better in our nature journals.

Sometimes it is easier to draw something that you know nothing about. And sometimes it is easier to ask novel questions and make new observations if we know nothing about a subject. However, there are other time when a little bit of background knowledge can provide an important foundation for future learning.

Basic Botany for Nature Journalers

  1. First and foremost, you must learn some taxonomy. Why? Because if you understand a plant’s evolutionary lineage you can unlock a lot more learning. But don’t worry, it’s not that hard.
  2. In order to facilitate taxonomy you have to learn families. If you can learn plant families then you can go anywhere in the world and understand the botany better.
  3. Finally, to understand families you need to understand flower morphology. And don’t worry, morphology is just a fancy way to say shapes. Many people look at plant leaves and hope to learn something from the leaves. However, the leaves are not a useful characteristic. Similarity in leaf shape does not mean that plants are closely related. On the other hand, flower features are the basis for determining how related plants are to each other.
Botany basics on a nature journal page fro drawing flowers
Some Flower Drawings in my Nature Journal Reflecting Botany Basics

Flower Morphology for Nature Journalers

Next time you look at  a plant, look at the flowers first. As you approach the flower we will focus on a few key things. (we’ll keep the botanical terminology to a minimum for now).

  • First, how many petals and sepals are there?
  • Then we will look to see how many male parts and female parts are there.
  • Third, we will check to see if the flower has bilateral or radial symmetry.
  • Lastly, we want to figure out if the ovary is above the petals or under them

By figuring out the above information we can often identify a plant to it’s family if not to genus and species. Once we know the family we can make a lot of assumptions about the plant. We can make guesses about its ecology, it’s phytochemistry, and  its potential ehtnobotanical status.

For a great tutorial on drawing wildflowers check out this video by John Muir Laws.

For some great educational and thoroughly irreverent botanical lessons check out this channel on youtube: Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t  This channel does use a lot of profanity so if you are sensitive about language you might want to skip it.

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Journal Weird Carnivorous Plants!

Do you want to escape the cold and the rain to go on a nature journaling vacation to a tropical rain forest in February? You are in luck because on February 9th I will be leading a nature journaling field trip inside the bio-diverse greenhouses at California Carnivores in Sebastopol! This local business contains arguably the biggest collection of carnivorous plants in the world. Not only are these plants fascinating to study and beautiful to draw but many of them are also endangered. They also have many orchids, bromeliads, liverworts, and mosses.

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com

In this class I will teach topics including: how to quickly capture the essence of complex shapes in our drawings, how to draw things we are intimidated by, and how to nature journal in visually overwhelming or information-dense settings.

The weather will be relatively mild, humid, and warm inside the greenhouses. Hats will be useful if it is sunny. We will not be walking much but the floor is uneven and made of gravel. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one that you like, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a bathroom on site. Unfortunately, this site is not wheelchair or scooter friendly.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Potluck lunch around 12:30.

Be prepared for mind-boggling plant forms and colors as well as a good dose of novelty-induced dopamine!

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com

$20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Pitcher Plant Bonanza!

In June, the North Coast Nature Journal Club is privileged to enjoy the peak of the pitcher plants at California Carnivores in Sonoma County! This nursery contains the largest collection of carnivorous plants in the world and June will be a perfect time to see the amazing species of pitcher plants at their best! If you think you have already nature journaled once at this location and don’t need to go twice – think again.  We will focus on drawing and learning about carnivorous plants in general and Sarracenia pitcher plants in particular. We will also practice composition strategies and tips for nature journaling in information dense environments.

The weather will be relatively mild and probably comfortable inside the greenhouses. Hats will be useful if it is sunny. We will not be walking much but the floor is uneven and made of gravel, scooters or wheelchairs can be accommodated. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a bathroom on site.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Bring a potluck item to share for lunch around 12:30. You can leave food in your car.

$20 suggested donation.

This class is limited to 12 people. Please email me to reserve your spot.

As usual be prepared to get super-curious in nature and connect with like minded people!

Here is a picture of Akshay nature journaling surrounded by pitchers last year!

Marvel at Incredible Carnivorous Plants!

In the month of January, the North Coast Nature Journal club will stay out of the rain and warm inside the bio-diverse greenhouses at California Carnivores in Sebastopol! This local business contains arguably the biggest collection of carnivorous plants in the world. Not only are these plants fascinating to study and beautiful to draw but many of them are also endangered. They also have many orchids, bromeliads, etc.

Topics covered will include: how to quickly capture the essence of complex shapes in our drawings, how to draw things we are afraid of, and how to nature journal in visually overwhelming or information-dense settings.

The weather will be relatively mild, humid, and probably warmish inside the greenhouses. Hats will be useful if it is sunny. We will not be walking much but the floor is uneven and made of gravel. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a bathroom on site.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Potluck lunch around 12:30.

Be prepared for mind-boggling plant forms and colors as well as a good dose of novelty-induced dopamine!

$20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Learn Faster:

Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!

I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.

Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?

Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!

Tracking Plants

A track is a readable mark left by a movement, action, or process. Tracking is the observation of these marks and the attempt to imagine the movements, actions, or processes that created the marks.

Right about now you might be saying, “yeah, yeah. I already know what tracking is; looking at animal footprints. Here goes Marley stating the obvious again.” Well, you might be right. I’m restating the obvious, in the most general and all-inclusive way possible, before making a leap of faith to include plants in our conception of trackable beings. Why not?

Most plants move slower than most animals and their lifeways are considerably different but they still follow patterned growth cycles, respond to stimuli, move towards some things and away from others, they reproduce, and they die. And most importantly for this discussion, they leave behind marks and signs of their actions.

There are several reasons why including plants as trackable subjects is helpful. First of all, it will help us learn more about this foundational kingdom of living beings from a unique perspective. Second, it will help us with our holistic understanding of the ecology and natural history of the area in which we track. Plants are, after all, one of the most important biotic players in the drama of life. Seeing them as engaged actors instead of as immobile, passive furniture can help us better understand what is happening around us. Third, by becoming better plant trackers we will be more able to identify or tune out the “noise” of plant tracks and sign mixed in with animals tracks and sign when we are focused on tracking animals.

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In the above photo we can see a plant doing two distinctly trackable things that are important to be aware of. On the left side of the photo we can see actual tracks left by the movement of the plant in the sand. This is a common phenomenon and important to recognize and filter as noise when tracking animals. It can also be an important clue in determining wind patterns, directions, and intensity. In the bottom right of the photo we can see the plant performing what I call “sorting.” The plant is creating an uneven distribution of rabbit scat by it’s physical presence; creating a sort of dam that traps the pellets and accumulates them. This type of sorting pattern is important to understand so that we do not jump to incorrect conclusion about why there is so much scat right next to this plant.

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Plants are also very useful substrates for recording information, containing animal sign, or for calculating age of animal sign. The bruising, oxidation, wilting, and callusing of plant tissue can be very useful in estimating age but these processes are also dependent on weather.

Whether you are a wildlife tracker, an avid hunter, or a curious gardener you should learn how to track plants.

 

Some photos showing trackable phenomena in plants:

IMG_3029 Trees live a long time and they are dying for half of that time. Their woody tissue and predictable growth patterns allow for tracking into deep history (dendrochronology for example)

IMG_4015Vegetation can be a very precise substrate for information about animals.

img_2384Small feet-like sticky tendrils left on a painted door by a vine.