BBY005 :: Athyrium filix-femina

Lady fern. Ferns are so beautiful and complex, but the simplicity of my art reflects my knowledge of these plants. I had no idea where to start in identifying this one. I still don’t understand exactly what “pinnatifid” means but it’s a start! The leaf structure is bipinnate-pinnatifid if anyone was wondering. Another clue was hidden under the leaf. The sori, or spore structures used to reproduce, are intricately shaped and sometimes protected by a tiny tissue. The sori of this lady fern (pictured here in mid-September) are kidney shaped.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:09 under the alder tree from last week.

Art by Nelson Spies, September 24, 2020. Acrylic and ink on 65 lb green cardstock.

BBY004 :: Alnus rubra

Called red alder, Oregon alder, or western alder, A. rubra is part of the Betulaceae family (the birches). The tree grows female cones and male catkins on the same branch. The bark is often marked by small to large white patches of lichen that thrive on certain trees.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:04 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 20 – 30’ (6 – 9 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, November 4, 2020. Pencil on medium surface paper.

BBY003 :: Betula papyrifera var. commutata

Paper birch, western white birch. As we will see in next week’s post and still more to come, the first day’s expedition to track the species at Burnaby Lake was a bit naïve and ambitious. I correctly distinguished that entries 003 and 004 were different trees while out in the field; however, after reviewing my photos the next day, for a long while I could see no difference. Clueless about how to identify plants (and I’m still novice), I didn’t have clear pictures showing leaf or flower structures. Returning to the location multiple times, I gradually became familiar with at least two trees around here! This is a birch, and next week (004) will be an Alder.

B. papyrifera (left) compared to Alnus rubra (right)

The base model (B. papyrifera / var papyrifera) grows widely elsewhere in Canada.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:00 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 20 – 30’ (6 – 9 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, October 26, 2020. Pencil on medium surface paper.

BBY002 :: Spiræa douglasii

Rose spirea, hardhack, Douglas spirea, steeplebush. Another member of the rose family (see 001 last week), this native bush produces beautiful fuzzy flowers all around the lake for much of the summer. I’ve seen red-winged blackbirds sitting in the dried upper branches eating the seeds.

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird eating rose spirea seeds

While native, bountiful, and beautiful in North America, this species is considered invasive in Europe!

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 17:55 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 9’ (2.7 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, September 17, 2020. Coloured pencil on medium surface paper.

BBY001 :: Sorbus scopulina

The first species on my observation list from Burnaby Lake is the mountain-ash tree. This is one of my favourite trees as I have had one in my backyard since I was young. Every fall it attracts all kinds of birds with its red berries.

I first wrote down the species of this specimen as S. scopulina, the local native “western” or “Greene’s” mountain-ash, but looking further makes me think it might one of several species or even a cross. Similar trees include S. sitchensis (Sitka mountain-ash) or S. aucuparia (European mountain-ash). More info from E-Flora BC, UBC.

A member of the rose family, Rosaceae, this is the first of many plants we will see in that distinction. It’s funny, knowing so little about taxonomy, I didn’t realize so many plants were of that family. I came across a Robert Frost:

The rose is a rose,

And was always a rose.

But now the theory goes

That the apple’s a rose,

And the pear is, and so’s

The plum, I suppose.

The dear only knows

What will next prove a rose.

You, of course, are a rose,

But were always a rose.

Robert Frost, “The Rose Family” Public Domain Poetry

I’ve seen this tree everywhere around the lake, but more often in the southern area between the sports centre and the wildlife rescue.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 17:50 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 8’ (2.4 m) tall, with several trunk stalks from the ground.

Art by Nelson Spies, August 20, 2020. Watercolour pencil on paper.

Introductions and Introspections

As I kick off Park Canvass, you may want to know who am I? What am I going for?

The project name

“Canvass” is a word to describe surveying, probing for information, as opposed to “Canvas,” a fibrous woven material often used for paintings. I combine the meaning of both words in my project title. Although I don’t want to limit future episodes of this project to parks, the word “Park” can apply to most open spaces outdoors.

Who am I?

I’m Nelson, a fledgling mechatronics designer with too many ambitions. One of the many reasons I started this project in a more formal, professional format was to force myself to focus. And focusing on a public project that encompasses art, photography, hiking, science, social media, and graphics seemed like a good compromise between the necessary pressure of production and my scattered interests.

I work at a Vancouver tech startup and I bike to work when the weather’s nice. Whatever interesting things I’m not doing at work I’m doing in my free time, such as cooking, painting, photography, and playing music.

What’s the plan? The plan is always evolving. Basically, I will research as many species of plant or animal or fungus as I have observed at my Park Canvass location (currently Burnaby Lake). I will try to determine the species, whether it’s native or introduced, and find some interesting facts that I hope you will appreciate. I or a collaborator will draw or paint that specimen for some added creativity. Then I’ll post each entry on Instagram, Flickr, and here with varying levels of detail. The schedule is up for debate, although I had initially dreamed of daily posts.