Insects, native plants and art

Posted: July 9, 2014 in Art Quilts, Paintings in cloth
Tags: , ,
Partially finished piece of a milkweed plant.

Partially finished piece of a milkweed plant.

I have been interested in learning about native plants and their interaction with insects. Douglas W. Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home whetted my appetite, and now I want to learn more. With five acres of land to play with, my husband and I have been trying to carry out what we are learning. We encourage milkweed, including in our garden areas, and have planted dozens of native plants, from sedum, phlox, iron weed, verbenas, and rough stemmed goldenrod, to shrubs like spice bush, blueberries, and cranberries. We already have dozens of mulberry trees, plus red maples, sassafras and cherry trees. To them we added oak, white pine, a horse chestnut, river birch, and crabapple.

At the same time we are working to remove invasive alien vines, bushes and trees such as tearthumb, garlic mustard, Japanese honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, and Autumn Olive trees.

Insects are the basis of the food chain. Birds need to eat them for protein to lay eggs and raise their nestlings. We are excited to be able to identify soldier beetles, spittlebugs, red milkweed beetles and dragonflies.

The native plants and insects in this area have evolved together for millions of years. Insects are not able to ingest invasive plant varieties.

Now my challenge is to reflect this interest in my art.

I’ve started one piece, of a milkweed plant. I want to show it being eaten by a monarch caterpillar, with a hint of the beautiful monarch butterfly that will result. I want to make the point that attracting butterflies with the nectar in flowers is not enough. You have to provide the plants that the caterpillars can feed upon (like milkweed for Monarch butterflies). But of course I want to do this artistically and subtly!

It is taking a long time because I composed it of one inch squares, and I am hand quilting it! Don’t worry if you can’t see a caterpillar, because so far there is only a hint of one, hanging down below a leaf at the bottom right. The piece is only part way completed. The working title is “Monarch Love.”

Here is the finished piece.

Mildwood: Food Fit for a Monarch.  Martha Ressler. 24 x 24"

Mildwood: Food Fit for a Monarch. Martha Ressler. 24 x 24″

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