BBY018 :: Ilex aquifolium

English holly.

I was inspired by a recent botanical illustration tutorial from the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver (ISCMV) to draw something quickly and simply. I still don’t have watercolours, but I tried to use watercolour pencils for the pigment here.

Holly is an introduced species from Europe. The spiky leaves may be mistaken for our native Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, but while both are present around Burnaby Lake, the fruits will differentiate them. Bright red holly berries are synonymous with Christmas decorations, while Oregon grapes are much more like small sour blueberries.

The species name “aquifolium” refers to the sharp, hooked or pointed shape of the leaves. This feature and name is shared by the Oregon grape. The inspiration may be from an eagle’s talons or beak, and presumably related to “quills” as well.

Art by Nelson Spies, June 25, 2021. Watercolour pencils/pigment on 100 lb weight coloured pencil paper.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:57 just south of the Pavilion parking lot.

BBY017 :: Lysimachia terrestris

Swamp candles.

This was just a fun art piece on an inspired evening. I tried to complete it all in one night, but had to finish some details the next day. Although I haven’t done any art since then, it was nice to pump out a piece all at once. I feel that the scene and style consistency also benefitted from the dense effort.

Swamp candles are native to the east coast and have been introduced to the west. These are part of the family Myrsinaceae/Myrsinoideae which was merged with Primulaceae.

Art by Nelson Spies, May 26, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. I sent the original to a friend in another province.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:50 from the Pavilion dock.

BBY016 :: Nymphaea alba

White waterlily.

Moving into the water now, here is a common plant that frogs love to sit on. White or European waterlilies are invasive in North America, being found originally in Africa, Europe and Asia. The large lilypads can be seen from space, framing in the very rectangular dredged shape of Burnaby Lake in satellite images while the more organic glacial shape is seen in maps and in the winter.

This painting is a watercolour painting by Michelle Wiebe (@seachelle_paints).

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:49 from the Pavilion dock.

Here is a picture from when I observed these.

BBY015 :: Humulus lupulus


This entry was bound to be a big botany learning experience for me. As with most of the entries I’m currently working on, this one was hastily observed and forgotten until later. Looking at the pictures, I thought it must be a grape vine. I could see tiny flowers which I assumed would turn into grapes later in the summer. The leaves looked about right and there were vines. I thought there was a possibility it was a Canadian moonseed, a poisonous lookalike to grapes that must be identified, unsurprisingly, by a crescent-shaped seed before accidently eating.

I was surprised when the flowers matured in mid-September. This was another proof that a budding botanist must closely observe things throughout the whole year before coming to a conclusion! These were unmistakably hops, although I had not knowingly seen the plants up close before. There may have been a farm that grew hops nearby back in the day, or since the vines are spreading and invasive, the plants could have travelled! Hops are listed as an invasive plant in the 2005 Weedbusters volunteer manual along the Southshore Trail at Burnaby Lake, where I have observed them still.

Hops are in the hemp family, Cannabaceae.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:44 at the northbound trailhead from the Pavilion parking lot.

Art by Nelson Spies, May 12, 2021. Pencil crayon on medium texture coloured pencil paper.

BBY014 :: tree

I hope this painting refracts the lights I saw sparkling off these glossy leaves! For now, I have to draw what I don’t know, but soon I will find out what all of these species are. For technical accuracy, this project would have included a full year of botanical research supported by observing through all seasons, but I’m glad for the artistic freedom I’m using to push out these pictures before fully understanding them!

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:41.

Art by Nelson Spies, March 1, 2021. Acrylic on thick canvas-textured paper from a 2019 Europe calendar.

BBY013 :: tree

This is an unknown tree with bright green leaves and light bark. It might be an aspen or a relative; I was unable to find an exact match from several sources I looked in. I still have a great chance of learning many of these unknown species, since I now know where the specimens are and I walk by them frequently! I will have to visit and take more notes in spring, summer, and fall to identify some of these.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:37.

Art by Nelson Spies, February 4, 2021. Acrylic on black textured plastic planner divider.

BBY012 :: Malus fusca

Pacific crabapple.

Check out these little pomes! I wish I had captured these a bit later in the season with ripe fruit to add some extra colour.

This is my first digital art piece in this project. Although I was able to more or less trace my reference photo, I added some of my own texture and shading. I’d like to stick more to traditional media, but I will definitely keep exploring the digital painting world.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:34 about 190 m down the trail from BBY001.

Art by Nelson Spies, January 28, 2021. Digital painting with Krita and Wacom Intuos pen tablet.

BBY011 :: Melospiza lincolnii

Lincoln’s Sparrow. When I saw this bird along the trail ahead of me, I excitedly snapped a couple blurry shots before getting one clear-ish one. This is the first animal in my series, a step forward in showcasing the diversity of this park!

The one clear picture I took lacked a lot of detail in the shadows, so I wasn’t able to see the true colours of this sparrow. Looking in my bird guides, the most similar species was Lincoln’s sparrow, although I couldn’t see some of the colours and patterns in my picture. I still think this is the most probable identification, although it could be a variety of fox sparrow!

This guy was sitting in an alder tree, so this painting shows off another version of BBY004! I had a lot of fun painting every part of this scene, the pastel blue summer sky, blurred light green splotches, the mossy alder branch, and of course the bird. I’m very happy with the result, although leaving the subject to last made me nervous.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:29 about 140 m down the trail from BBY001.

Art by Nelson Spies, December 30, 2020. Acrylics on primed canvas sheet.

BBY010 :: Sorghum halepense (?)

This is grass; I know that much! It is possibly johnsongrass, which I learned this week is an invasive introduced species that is not officially listed as present here in BC. However, if johnsongrass has popped across the US border, I wouldn’t be surprised. The plants I observed grow mainly in the marshy areas to the south of Burnaby Lake. In fact, the greenery in the background of 009 is probably this grass!

I think from now on, I have to take the backburner in terms of positively identifying these plants, and instead focus on just presenting the art. This artwork was one of my favourite ones to draw – there are nice simple shapes, but also details that come out really nicely with ink. The flowers/seeds on the actual plant should taper more towards the tip; I just got carried away and ran out of room at the top of the page.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:26 about 130 m down the trail from BBY001. Some stands of grass got really tall, up to about 7 feet (2.1 m).

Art by Nelson Spies, December 17, 2020. Prismacolor Premier 01 fine line marker on dot matrix printer paper. I just have a lot of that really old paper.

BBY009 :: Lythrum salicaria

Purple loosestrife. This distinctive flower popped up in a few places along the Burnaby Lake trail. It was easy to identify; although similar to the native fireweed, purple loosestrife’s petals are more pointy. L. salicaria was introduced to North America and has taken over from East to West. More interesting information can be read here.

This artwork is the first collaboration piece, painted by my friend Rébécca Gourde! Liquitex Basics Acrylic on 8×10” Quality Canvas Panel using “a lot of different paintbrushes.”

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:23 about 110 m down the trail east of BBY001. About 2 – 3’ (0.7 – 1 m) tall, a single stalk by itself. Others were later observed in larger groupings at the south side of the lake.