Fragile ©2015 Suzanne Bélair Oil on canvas   10 X 8 in
©2015 Suzanne Bélair
Oil on canvas 10 X 8 in

Just got back from a long morning walk. For those who are seeing this blog for the 1st time, let me tell you this is not an easy feat when you are recovering from a broken knee cap and the system of tendons and nerves around it refuse to heal.

Anyhow, this morning’s weather made it worth my while. With the sun shining and the air finally getting a bit warmer, my ears picked up the sound of crows croaking the way they like to, when they know spring is here. I felt a bubble of joy rise within me.

I certainly have not painted or written as much as I like since the accident. It made me realise my limitations. But less does not mean none even if I have not posted many new works lately.

This one is particularly interesting in that it is about a rare flower and it was a commissioned work.

Arethusa (Arethusa bulbosa) commonly called Dragon’s mouth, is a small orchid measuring between 10 and 35 cm (4 to 14 in) in height. It is made up of one stem only with one solitary fragrant flower.  The plant has only one leaf that shows up only after the blooming period which occurs around end of may/beginning of June and until July. The flower itself measures between 3 and 6 cm (1 to 2.3 inches).

Like all orchids, the flower is made up of 2 sepals et 3 petals located at the top of the flower. The colour of this small flower is generally pick or magenta but can sometimes be white or bluish. The 2 top petals form a hood situated over the label that is larger, has a furry look, is striped with purple and yellow and turns towards the ground. Arethusa does not flower each year since it can go into dormancy.

A. bulbosa lives in bogs where minerals and nutriments are plentiful and as all orchids, it is very sensible to its environment. The area covered by peat lands has been shrinking constantly due to the exploitation of peat moss and the filling of marsh lands to allow house and roads construction. The habitat of the arethusa is slowly disappearing and the plant is getting scarcer. In 2000, it was classified as “susceptible of being designated threatened or vulnerable species” in Quebec, while it still had an “undefined status” in Canada. According to certain sites, it is considered as a species “in danger”, at risk, vulnerable and very rare in Quebec. However, after verification with the Quebec government list for vulnerable species or species susceptible of being designated threatened or vulnerable, and updated in 2013, arethusa is no longer included. The government removed it in June 2013.

Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides) and Tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) are two other orchids considered related species and that live in the same habitat as A. bulbosa . To add to the loss of natural habitat, pollination of arethusa has become more difficult as populations of bumblebees, its natural pollinator, have been declining. Vegetative propagation of arethusa is very slow.

Arethusa was observed in the municipality of Austin, Qc that chose the flower in 2014 as its floral emblem. This year, three visual representations of arethusa were assembled to display at city hall. The painting “Fragile” is now hanging in the city’s counsel room.

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