Still Life Journal
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Still Life with Sunflowers, Giant African Land Snails, and Comet Moth
The sunflower is not actually a single flower, but a compound flower consisting of a cluster of approximately 2,000 individual flowers growing together. Bees love its pollen and the dried heads provide an excellent source of bird seed. Native Americans used the sunflower for many purposes: they ate the seeds, extracted oil from the seeds, and made paints and dyes from the pollen and petals. Sunflowers were introduced to Europe in the early 1500’s, when Spanish settlers brought them back from the new world as gifts. There are many varieties of sunflower; the tallest sunflower on record was 25 feet, and the largest sunflower head measured over 32 inches across. The sunflower is now one of the world’s leading sources of plant oil.
The Artichoke Thistle, or Cardoon, is a wild form of the cultivated Globe Artichoke. Thistles are natives of Mediterranean regions, and the cardoon was introduced into the United States in the 1790’s. It grows up to 7 feet tall and the spiky purple blooms are attractive to birds and insects. The dried heads are used in ornamental floral arrangements. Unlike the artichoke, the edible parts of the cardoon include the thick leaf bases, hearts and roots. In the United States, it is considered an invasive species. Gardeners who do grow them should exercise care to remove the flower heads before they produce seeds, as cardoons can spread aggressively and are very difficult to eradicate, due to their deep roots and sharp spines.
Giant African Land Snails are also considered an invasive species in the United States, where keeping them as pets is illegal. They should never be released into the wild due to their potential to proliferate on a massive scale. They are hermaphrodites, meaning that they posses both mail and female reproductive organs. In regions of Africa, they are used as a food source.
Comet Moths belong to the family Saturniidae (the lovely green Luna Moth is also a member of this family). The one pictured is a female; the males have even longer "tails" on their lower wings. They are among the largest Silk Moths in the world, and are found only in Madagascar.
artwork and text by Betsy Karasik © 2005