Monday, 3 October 2011

Aquilegia formosa - Crimson Columbine

Aquilegia formosa, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2011

  Here is my latest drawing of Columbine.  You may recall an earlier drawing from a couple of years ago; however, I decided to try again and am somewhat pleased with the improvement.  I have another photo that I want to try working from showing the underside of the blossoms; however, that will have to wait for a while.

Now let me tell you a bit about the fascinating wildflower.

Aquilegia comes from the Latin word aquil, meaning eagle, referring to the shape of the petals. Formosa means beautiful. Indeed, our native columbine fits the descriptive epithet. The common name, columbine, stems from the Latin word, columbina, meaning dove-like. The family name for this plant is Ranunculaceae, and, yes, I have trouble pronouncing it as well!

Crimson Columbine, Western Columbine, or ambiguously, "Red Columbine" is a common and attractive wildflower native to western North America, from Alaska to Baja California, and eastward to Montana and Wyoming. There is also an eastern form which some of you may be familiar with. Technically, the red or orange spreading outer parts of the flower are sepals, and the yellow inner parts are the true petals. The petals bear spurs that attract the plant's pollinators, the Sphinx moths. Hummingbirds are also attracted to it in gardens.

The flowers are edible, with a sweet taste—though the seeds can be fatal if eaten, and most parts of the plant contain cyanogenic glycosides. As for these seeds, I found another researcher who stated that "North American tribal peoples used the roots and leaves medicinally. Leaves were chewed then used to rub bee-stings or small wounds. A tonic was prepared for sore throat. The seeds were chewed to relieve stomach upset. Mashed roots were rubbed on aching joints by the elderly. Maybe the Native Peoples were not affected by the cyanogenic glycosides (whatever they might be!). Anyway, The flowers are edible as a decorative salad garnish, having a sweet nectar at the base of the flower (in the knobs of the spurs) which akin to honeysuckle often entices children to pick them and suck at the back of the flower like you do with honeysuckle.

One of my favourite comments found during research was the following: "Crushed seeds were traditionally rubbed on the skin as a mild perfume as well as a flea and louse repellent." Yuck! More importantly, scientists, especially Polish, but some Chinese as well, have had promising results with this plants in their ongoing search for medicinal alkaloids.

Personally, I draw them because I find that they have a certain elegance which I keep trying to capture through art. For more information, go to:


Margaret, the slightly more than 5 ft. tall baby!
Margaret is a Rothschild giraffe born in a zoo in the U.K.  She was a few weeks early and undersized for a baby giraffe at the time these photos were taken.  For some reason she was unable to suckle her mother -- she was her mother's first born which may have something to do with it although zoo babies and mothers often have these sorts of problems -- probably something is missing that would be found in the wild.  Consequently, she was being hand-raised by the zoo staff.  Below are a series of photos showing the often repeated process of feeding Margaret.

You may have already seen these as they seem to be circulating on the Internet again -- I saw them for the first time back in 2009 or early 2010, so I guess they have been around for a while.  This means that Margaret is probably a full-grown giraffe by now!  Anyway, if you have seen them previously, just prepare yourself to enjoy seeing them again!

Margaret and her best friend

Margaret reaching for the bottle

Yum, good!

Licking those lips!

A thank you kiss from Margaret

Suki's favourite position unless
she is hungry!

Suki and Sallie
[written in the a.m.]
Sadly, a hungry cat has no snooze alarm! or so my sister, Janet, told me in our telephone conversation last night.  I definitely agree with whoever made that comment in the first place!  Right now, Suki is under my favourite soft blanket, sleeping soundly.  She just finished her BIG breakfast meal a short while ago and has now returned to her favourite position shown at the right.  She will stay in this position until noon when she thinks she should be fed again.  Thankfully for me, I won't be here at noon so she can complain for a while and then go back to sleep until I return home later in the day.  THEN the pleading and posturing will begin -- she will supposedly be saying that she is a poor, starving creature who hasn't eaten in months so won't I please, please, please take pity upon her!  What a big fake she is, but she is also adorable -- especially when she comes and nuzzles my ear as though to say "thank you".  What can I do -- I am just an old softie.
[written in the p.m.]
As for me, I am doing fine as usual.  I spent most of the day at St. Michael's Hospital -- not because I was sick, but because I had several appointments.  A neurologist is working with me now trying to find the cause of the frequent episodes of "almost falling" with the occasional "actual fall".  I remain hopeful that something can be diagnosed eventually before I end up doing serious damage to my floor or walls with my hard head!  Although it was a tiring day, it was also a very pleasant day because the appointments were scheduled so that I was free at noon and could attend the noon Mass at the Cathedral.  Then my final appointment was in an office just a few doors down from the hospital chapel which meant I got to spend some quiet time in the chapel prior to seeing the doctor.  For those of you who live in Toronto, if you haven't been in St. Mike's Hospital chapel for some time, or ever, it is a lovely place to make a visit -- just a few people going in an out -- family members or hospital staff coming in for a short visit or to pray the Rosary -- very prayerful.  Tomorrow I am attending the beginning of a new program at the Cathedral -- a seniors' group.  The agenda for tomorrow is "high tea with the pastor".  Finally I have discovered how I can get into the Parish Hall in my wheelchair which really opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for me since most of the courses the parish offers are presented in the Parish Hall.  All that is required is for me to arrange to have a staff person meet me at the elevators and then take me to wherever I am seeking to go.  I think the elevator is kept locked.  This is exciting news for me.

Cute Photo 

In-bread cat -- see what happens with too much in-breading!!

This cute photo was put on Facebook by an acquaintance of mine.  I love the silly pun but feel sorry for the cat who is having to endure such foolishness in order to make her humans happy!

May the peace of God be with us all.

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