Cactaceae

It’s a wonderful time to be in Arizona. The cacti are just beginning to bloom. Today’s installment is simple photography from the road. These plants are just to beautiful not to share.

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And an agave
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Chloroplasts and Color Anomaly

A color anomaly is the introduction of an outlier in an otherwise unified palette. A Fortuitous class demonstration of chlorophyll fluorescence came just hours after a lecture on color anomaly. I need little convincing to make artwork based on plant pigments.

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Chlorophyll is green because it absorbs all visible wavelengths except green. Chlorophyll a specifically uses red and blue wavelengths in photosynthesis. These wavelengths have just the right energy level to be useful. Photosynthesis relies on excited electrons from which energy is harnessed. But excited electrons want to go back to their more stable, lower energy state. When the red wavelength drops energy levels it can fluoresce. This fluorescence can be demonstrated with a vial of extracted chlorophyll and a white light such as an LED.

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Textbook cartoon style chloroplasts with stacks of thylakoids, granum.

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A variation on the first illustration exploring different color schemes.
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Flavin

Red cabbage, a variety of Brassica oleracea and a member of the Brassicaceae family, gets it’s color from anthocyanins. These water soluble pigments lend color to a variety of plants including many berries, beets, and purple tomatillos. I’ve long admired the vivid magentas produced, and equally long lamented that the color is not heat stable. Red Cabbage has a particular pigment from this group, flavin, which acts as a pH indicator.

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I made sauerkraut for the first time tonight. After tossing the cabbage with salt and squeezing out the juices, the liquid turns from water-like to slippery, a good indication of a basic solution. The residual liquid remaining was still purple, but with strong blue undertones in contrast to the almost-red cabbage I started with. My suspicions of a present pH indicator were verified with a drop of vinegar.

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Print and Ivy

I’m working on a study of Plectranthus verticillatus (swedish ivy) for my printmaking final. P. verticillatus is a member of the lamiaceae (mint) family, a grouping characterized by square stems and aromatic leaves. This member makes an excellent houseplant. My grandmother had a gorgeous, large specimen. I was always intrigued by its unusual scent. Hard to find for sale (at least in the southwest), I never had my own until a few years ago when I stumbled across one in a planter in a shopping center. I snuck a few cuttings which readily took to transplanting. The leaves are slightly succulent and shiny. It’s a beautiful plant that I’ve been wanting to draw.

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I’m currently working on a lithograph of P. verticillatus. I’m also working through a brainstorming study in linoleum. I’ve been playing with an idea to deconstruct leaves into layers representative of different functions and processes with in the plant.

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Pinus

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The ovulate cone of the pine can take 3 years to mature. Once a pollen grain from a male cone (microstrobilus) has landed on the female cone (megastrobilus), fertilization of the egg takes a year! After fertilization, the resulting embryo must mature into a seed.

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These are studies of immature female cones, specifically the archegonia, where the ovules are found. The ovules appear as eyes in the faces of the manipulated images.