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A peltate glandular trichome

A forest of glandular and non-glandular hairs (trichomes) cover the catmint leaves that I am painting. I am painting the glandular hairs in detail for the Eden Project Florilegium archive so that in the future the work can be used to educate children about why cats love this plant and why it is of ethnobotanical importance to humans.

The hair that is important to cats and humans is the peltate glandular trichome – the small mushroom shaped object. It looks like a satellite station under the microscope – it is quite yellow compared to the long horn like hairs. This is because the trichome is turgid – there is content, it has its cellular contents intact (slime, water, and protein)… When cats rub against the plant, terpene, a chemical mixture gets released and sends them into heaven. (More details about this later.)

These glandular trichomes are microscopic and so I needed the botanist Dr Alistair Griffiths to help me find them. The above image he took summarizes our findings. The non-glandular hairs are rather easier to find and I’ve been looking at these at various different magnification levels whilst drawing, painting and taking snapshots of them.

Non-glandular hairs of catmint
Snapshot of non-glandular catmint trichomes

As I enter into the winter, I will get into the intricacies of painting this whole plant. I will be working with dusty green and purple mixes of paint (my specimen has purple flowers). I will post some water colour details in the future.

Notes:
Alistair Griffiths is Horticultural Science Curator at the Eden Project

We used the below as our main reference:
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, a Morphological Comparison of Mutant and Wild Type Specimens to Gain an Ethnobotanical Perspective
Scott Herron
Department of Biological Sciences, Ferris State University, 820 Campus Dr. ASC 2012, Big Rapids, MI 49307-2225; herrons@ferris.edu

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This is how I have to start assessing my botanical illustration – Anne-Marie Evans style – she just gave us (The Eden Project Florilegium Society) a masterclass

Botanical veracity
Includes structure of plant, correct scale, story of plant…

Technical skill
Includes perspective, colour, tonal value, light and shade, translucency, clarity…

Aesthetic judgement
Includes composition, balance, colour relations …

Impact
Includes the ‘wow factor’

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    I’ve been looking at how I can develop some botanical knowledge outside my botanical illustration classes. Sally Corbet (a biologist and printmaker with a special interest in flowers and pollination) has suggested that I find a really good weeklong field trip to help build up my confidence and knowledge in this area. These courses are expensive and the right one hard to find. “What if you organised it so that a course came to you, to the place you are currently mapping?” Um, what a good idea of hers, how can I work this? I am scheming.

    In the meantime, Dr. Barbara McLean has come to my rescue, thanks to the energetic Mally Francis. I have recently been accepted as a painter for the Eden Project Florilegium Society and so now I can access day courses that Mally has booked. Barbara took us through the best practice principles of dissection and introduced us to the floral diagram. This aerial view of the plant is now my plan. I make myself draw an aerial view of every plant I have to paint and dissect, and I keep drawing the dissections so when I find the field study course of my dreams, I will be adept at something.

    This approach will force me to travel, walk with my fingers and pencil around the plant in different directions and in varying dimensions – something of a psychogeographical approach to drawing. Mr. Will Self would be pleased.

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