Leaf of the Day: Water Plantain ..of some sort..

I have had a frustrating start to the week. I realised that the due date for the next SBA course submission was getting very close so decided to get organised. This time it’s a single plant “portrait” so last night I stretched the paper, cleared the decks and was ready to go and find my model.

I had decided some time ago that I would make a painting of the pretty white water plantain which grows in the water margins everywhere here… everywhere, that is, until you want one. After a whole morning of lake shore trawling and a bit of trespassing I ended up with only a couple of tatty flower specimens which are full of bugs, and some leaves. I was bitten to death by whatever horrible things inhabit the lake shores and got my feet wet feet because, here in Florida, grass is not always what is seems. It is often water masquerading as grass, no doubt there were leeches too. (Visions of the “African Queen”). This is all because since the summer rains, most of these plantains are just out of reach, just a couple feet from the shore…just two inches away from my fingertips… just too far …Sigh.

But to salvage the day I did start thinking about composition and made some rough sketches of the battered flower stem I have and a couple of composition sketches. It’s an important step and one that is tempting to miss out.
I am also having real problems finding out exactly what this is. It’s definitely not the “arrowhead ” which obligingly has an arrow headed leaf, although the flowers are the same. There are 3 or 4 different species which have similar flowers but I am almost sure this is Alisma subcordatum or it could be the Alisma plantago-aquatica the common Water Plantain. The thing that confuses me is that some of the flower spikes seem slightly different.
The scientific name “Alisma” is derived from the Celtic word for “water” and one curious colloquial name “mad dog weed” seems to come from the use of roots as a “cure” for rabies. If I get any madder today I will just chew on a leaf.

However, you can see why I would like to draw it, those simple flowers and graceful curving stem. It’s a dainty plant with its delicate white petals and round green seed heads so eventually it could/might make a nice piece of work. The search for a good specimen continues tomorrow….


Water Plantain Sketches

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