How to Nature Journal a Collection

Right now, I’m going to show you how to nature journal using the “collection” technique. This is one of the basic nature journaling approaches. You can use it even if you are just getting started with nature journals. Experienced nature journalers will also benefit from this technique.

The basic idea is simple. You are out walking in a nearby park. You brought your nature journal but don’t know where to start. There are birds everywhere, there are wildflowers, and you also notice tons of lichen on the trees. “This is kind of overwhelming!” You think to yourself.  “I only have 20 minutes for nature journaling.” What should you do?

How to Nature Journal a Collection

  • First, you need to choose the category for your collection. The category can be taxonomical, such as plants in the sunflower family (asteraceae), or a collection of warblers. The category could also be “things growing on other things.” In this case you would “collect” lichens, mosses, epiphytes, or fungus.
  • Second, think about your page organization. Do you want to divide your paper up into squares right away? How do you want to organize the individual subjects of your collection?
  • Third, think about how much time you have and how in depth you want to get with each subject of your collection. If you start off putting in a ton of information and details with the first few subjects and then simplify dramatically with the last few it will look bad.
  • Fourth, start drawing and nature journaling the individual subjects. Use words, images, and numbers for each one. Try to keep a consistent style to facilitate comparison and make the collection look better.
Examples of Nature Journal “Collections”
An example of a nature journal collection with birds for how to nature journal a collection
A nature journal collection by Paula Peeters quickly captures bird species that she heard during her nature journaling session in Australia.
A nature journal collection showing different species of mushrooms
A nature journal collection with 10 different mushrooms collected over the course of an hour. Marley Peifer’s nature journal.
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

How To Nature Journal Biocultural Diversity: Mariia Ermilova Terada

Mariia Ermilova Terada shows us how to nature journal biocultural diversity. Not only does she nature journal in three languages but she also incorporates the human-nature connection into her pages. In contrast, most nature journalers today omit this relationship. For example, I often choose nature subjects where I cannot see the human interaction. I frequently exclude hikers, benches, telephone poles from my landscape paintings. Another example is that I rarely nature journal my garden, my salad, or the other aspects of nature my life is directly dependent on.

In addition, we talk about Mariia’s studies, her love of frogs, fabric arts, and the role nature journaling can play in making the world a better place. Don’t miss the lightning round!

How to Nature Journal Your Breakfast

Did you nature journal the plants and animals that you ate for breakfast today? What about the plants or animals that made your clothes? Have you ever included the indigenous names for plants or animals on your page? If nature journaling is supposed to connect us more to nature why do we often avoid the subjects we are most closely connected to?

How to nature journal biocultural diversity

In the above example we can see how Mariia applies nature journaling to an everyday scene. Her neighbor caught a fish and is cooking it. This nature journal page captures that subsistence relationship. In addition she gives the name of the fish in three languages and points out how it is an invasive species. The combination of comic, recipe, and species profile give this page a biocultural significance. how to nature journal biocultural diversityIn contrast, Mariia could have just nature journaled a random butterfly. “What’s wrong with nature journaling a random butterfly?” In fact, there is nothing wrong with choosing a subject just because of an aesthetic interest. But let’s be self aware. Why don’t we nature journal what we eat?

how to nature journal biocultural diversity
How to Nature Journal Biocultural Diversity
  1. First, be curious about local traditional knowledge about nature in the area where you are. What culture has been living there? What was their relationship to the plants and animals and landscapes you are drawing? Is there a way you can recognize and incorporate some of that into your journal? However, be aware of the issue of cultural appropriation.
  2. Second, be curious about cultural context. Even the magnolia in your garden, the chicken in your soup, or your house cat have a cultural how to nature journal biocultural diversitycontext. Even a quick search on google could find some cool background. What if you included a map, names in other languages, or historic references next to that sketch of your feline or flower?
  3. Finally, what are some biocultural connections from your own life? You can also try to nature journal some of the aspects of your own life that are connected to nature. What plants, animals, fungi, minerals etc do you relate to on a daily basis?

See more of Mariia’s work: https://taplink.cc/mariia_ermilova_terada

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.