A celebration of the specific wildflowers native to Mount Oread – the big hill on which KU was built – and some of their symbiotic friends. Each flower in big technicolor to salute the diversity of wildflower colors and shapes within the tallgrass prairie which blanketed all of campus in KU’s early years.
You may recognize some of the iconic Kansas flowers and pollinators here: a prairie sunflower, a monarch with butterfly milkweed (top left). There are several flowers with common names I found amusing. In particular, purple poppy mallow (the large, pink flower in the bottom center) which is also called “Wine Cup.” I liked that it is a host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly. Pair Wine with gray hair made me think Mother Nature has a good sense of humor. Carolina Horse Nettle’s (top middle white with yellow center) poisonous fruit names made me laugh. It has been called, “devil's potato, devil's tomato, thorn apple, poisonous potato and apple of sodom.”
In the early years at KU, students took a class with Professor Snow who required them to arrive every day with fresh plant or insect specimens for classification. They would carefully press and preserve their specimens into dried plant collections called Herbariums.
Collecting flora and fauna was such a big part of student life at the time that the first newspaper at KU was called The Observer of Nature. It was started as a means for sharing methods and musings about these natural collections and inspired many of the pieces in the Origin Stories collection including this one.
I did a bit of modern day collecting myself. The brown background color wash on this piece is Walnut Ink. I hand-made the ink from those very Marvin Grove Black Walnut trees. When the green husk is cut open, it oxidizes into a deep brown color. I collected walnuts in the spring and the fall of 2023 and “cooked” them down into an ink which serves as the base layer for all four pieces about native plants.
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