|Blinded by Pollinia - Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) and Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor), watercolor, 17.5" x 13.5".|
Today I'm interrupting my Sperry Chalet artist-in-residence postings to show you one of my latest art works. This painting was created as my entry to an exhibition that the Botanic Artist Society of the National Capital Region (BASNCR), of which I'm a member and officer, is putting on, "Natural Attraction: Virginia Plants and Their Pollinators." The show will be at the Athenaeum in Alexandria, VA from April 6 through May 14, 2017.
I'm really pleased that my painting was selected for the show (it is a juried show). I couldn't have done this painting without the inspiration of Jim Fowler's fabulous photos in his blog, capturing this unique instant as the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) is visiting the orchid flowers.
I had hoped to see the pollinator of the purple fringed orchids when I was studying the small population found on Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park) a few years ago, but I didn't see any during the times when I was doing my field sketches. So hats off to Jim, for his extraordinary combination of luck and patience in capturing this elusive occurrence.
The butterfly is attracted by the nectar found in the long thin spur behind each flower. As the insect puts its head near the opening of the spur to insert its proboscis, it comes in contact with the pollen sacs (pollinia) near the openings. The pollinia then attach to the insect's eyes by means of a sticky thread called the viscidium.
As the butterfly visits the flowers, a number of pollinia are collected and later deposited on other flowers where they can fertilize the style, which is also near the opening of the spur. The butterfly can become disoriented when it has a lot of pollinia stuck to its eyes, therefore my title, a takeoff on the song "Blinded by the Light."