This is a fantastic article showcasing the work of botanical artists that bring endangered plants to public awareness by Kathleen Konicek-Moran in the March 2016 ASBA journal of The Botanical Artist called “Saving Species”. I am honored to be in it!
Rare II-Imperiled Plants of Colorado
The entry call went out for artists who would like to illustrate imperiled plants of Colorado for the second RARE juried exhibition created by the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists. Being a member, I said yes in 2013 to the calling and chose the plant with the common name of Villa Grove tansymustard because our “off the grid” cabin in Colorado that we visit in the summer (I live in Texas) is about 7 miles from Villa Grove. Not an easy task to find it though. I spent a couple of years trying to find the plant in locations that it was last documented only to finally find it right under my nose on our property!
Descurainia ramosissima Rollins, ‘Villa Grove tansymustard’: State Rank:S3, Vulnerable. The plant is a highly branched herb that is endemic to Colorado only growing in the San Luis Valley and South Park and is usually found along roads, disturbed areas and gravelly plains.
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During a visit to CO in 2013 I did a drawing and took measurements of the one specimen that the Denver Botanic Gardens had in their Herbarium which Susan Panjabi, botanist, helped me locate. Curator Melissa Islam was very helpful finding information on the specifics of this plant that is in the Brassicaceae family.
I also tried to find it in August along Highway 17 near Villa Grove but to no avail. In early June 2014 Melissa Islam saw Descurainia ramosissima throughout Costilla County near Jaroso and sent me this picture.
What a difficult plant to paint from a photo! Need to see it, so before our trip to Colorado in late June I made many calls to find the locations of last sightings and to get permission to visit because many locations are on private land. It is now or never!
It is June at our “off the grid” cabin. Examining our 40 acres on a hike, I see one plant with inconspicuous yellow flowers among the sagebrush and rabbitbrush. It looks similar to the pencil drawing from the herbarium, but I am not a botanist so I’m not 100% sure. Above I am taking pictures with my IPad to hopefully get an ID. I excitedly email the photos to Melissa (but she was out until July 5th) and also to Susan Panjabi, a botanist for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, but she could not tell from just the phot0. I called Tim Hogan, the Collections Manager of the University of Colorado Herbarium and he wanted me to send some pressings so that they could be sure. So, I mailed 2 pressings right away! This is one of them.
It is Villa Grove tansymustard!
Melissa returned and she immediately wrote back that “it looks like Descurainia ramosissima!” Weeks later I got Tim’s email of confirmation. Fortunately, my specimens, he said, had good fruit that they could dissect and it was biseriate, i.e. seeds two ranked in the fruit, which is a key characteristic of this tannin. (see my study below)
He wanted to keep my pressings to add to their herbarium collection!
Here is the permanent record in the herbarium:
By this time our stay was quickly coming to an end but in the few short days I had left in Colorado I did many detailed & color studies in the luxury of my cabin.
Back in my Texas studio I am armed with photos, herbarium drawing, detailed studies & pressed specimen.
Here I am experimenting with composition for the plant portrait of Villa Grove tansymustard (Descuraninia ramosissima Rollins). Note I marked each seed pod attachment (front,back or side) to show the radial pattern around stock. The raceme yellow flowers are inconspicuous, cross shaped and very tiny (2mm) making them a challenge to paint. Plus, the seeds are only 1mm.
Below is the watercolor/graphite portrait (16×20)that I submitted in 2015 to the Rare II-Imperiled Plants of Colorado and happy to say that it is traveling in the exhibit which includes 28 other artists until 2017. It is currently in its second location Pueblo, CO at Sangre De Cristo Art and Conference Center until April 2016. (see video)