Working in the field: ASBA’s new code of ethics for botanical artists

My copy of The Botanical Artist, the American Society of Botanical Artists’ journal, arrived last week. There was a brief notice about the society’s new Code of Ethics for artists working in the field. Artists are encouraged to output and sign the document, then carry it with them in the field as a sort of diplomatic letter of passage for working in ecologically protected areas.

The 7 major principles for botanical artists working in the field are:

  • Follow all rules and regulations when working in a botanical garden or conservation area, and obey any instructions given by staff or officials while on working on site.
  • Do not dig up or disturb any plant on site, for any reason, unless given explicit permission by the land owner or staff/officials of the conservation area/garden in order to dissect or identify the plant.
  • Minimize disturbance to the habitat and ecosystem of the area. Walk carefully; place tripods, stools and other tools with care. Avoid damaging soils, other plants, seedlings.
  • Minimize disturbance in the vicinity of the plant. Create a minimal work footprint to avoid damaging any other species or specimens.
  • Inform the landowner or your contact for the site if you observe any disturbances to the natural environment while working.
  • Do not reveal the location of protected areas to other people. Refer them to the person or organization who granted you permission/guided you to the site.
  • These principles hold not only for working with native plants in their natural sites, but for all plant life in all locations.

All very common sense, right?

All of this is the kind of stuff you learn as a kid camping with the Scouts, or your first hikes with your family and friends. Why do these concepts require enunciation and publicizing to a group of people who ought to already be aware of the basics of conservation and outdoor activities?

Of course, we now live in a world where “nature deficit disorder” afflicts an increasing number of children, and where an increasing number of young adults are worried and concerned about “the environment,” yet very few of them have actually spent any time outdoors enjoying nature.

Perhaps it speaks to the number of people who are drawn to botanical art as urban and suburban garden and art lovers, but who have little background in outdoor pursuits.

This year I’d like to devote a few posts to minimizing your impact while hiking and painting in the outdoors. Unfortunately, there will also be examples of idiots who flagrantly destroy the natural environment in their pursuit of outdoor enjoyment. Look for the category “Leave No Trace” and tag, “Outdoor etiquette” to read more about how you can enjoy plein-air painting on public lands while treading lightly!

ASBA’s Core Values page and the society’s Code of Ethics for fieldwork can be found at the ASBA website.

Book of the Month Club: Land of Enchantment Wildflowers

Executive Summary: 3/5  Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland is an informative and beautifully produced book, but impractical for use while hiking. Editing and organization makes it harder to find specific flowers than necessary.

There are affiliate links in this post. As with all reviews on this blog, I purchased the item with my own money, for my own use, without any sponsorship.

 Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. This field guide to New Mexico wildflowers features more than 200 plants, all photographed by the authors, with details of their blossoms, leaves and seedpods.

There are 456 color photographs, plus information about traditional uses; toxins; etymology of both common and scientific names; usage in landscaping and gardening; and interactions with livestock, wildlife and insects. The book is written in a clear and engaging prose style.

This guidebook is beautifully produced, with accurate color reproduction. For a trade paperback, it is fairly compact and lightweight–just shy of 9″ x 5 1/2″ x 1″ and 1 lb, 11.5 oz (780g). Personally, if I’m doing a serious wildflower hike, with sketchbook, drawing tools and camera in tow, on top of my water, weather and dog gear, that nearly 2 pounds of paper weighs too much and takes up too much volume in my daypack to be useful. And if I’m doing a fast and light dayhike, I’m not going to be making any lengthy stops to peruse a guidebook.

Land of Enchantment Wildflowers organizes the flowers by color, rather than botanical family. This seems like a helpful way to categorize different species, especially for a novice wildflower enthusiast, but it’s not as useful as you might think. For one thing, not everyone sees colors the same way. Also, flowers can have slight color variations in certain locations.

Plants that are in the same family have more in common with each other than they do with plants that have the same color flower, but are totally different in their shape, preferred locations, pollinators, etc, etc. It’s the same reason most bird guides are organized by general family–a crow and a raven are very similar in what they eat and how they move, but a blackbird is a songbird, with totally different needs and behaviors. Yet all three birds are black!

Another problem with the book is the way the photographs are selected and arranged. The photos are all of the plants in full bloom. There are no photos of young plants, seed pods, etc. Wildflowers only bloom for a short period each year, so knowing how they look “out of season” is important!

The authors have placed photos of very closely related flowers together under one species entry heading, but the labeling as to which (sub) species is which can be confusing, or missing.

Finally, the photos are all literally postage-stamp size. Not very comfortable viewing for those of us with aging eyes!

We keep a selection of New Mexico books in our guest room for guests to enjoy while visiting us. Land of Enchantment Wildflowers has a definite place on the bookshelf. As a field guide, it’s a little too heavy and the photos are too confusing to take along for most dayhikes. I still prefer to snap photos with my phone camera, then use the databases at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to make a positive ID.

The authors also wrote the guide, Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide to Texas Flowering Plants (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest).

 

 

Bluebird winter days

Pinon pinecone lightly dusted with snow against a deep blue New Mexico sky.

A happy weekend to you from the sun- and snow-kissed Land of Enchantment!

El Niño has come to the desert southwest with generous snowfalls! This periodic warm-water oscillation in the Pacific Ocean provides much needed extra precipatation for the desert climates of the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Santa Fe is currently about 8″ ahead of average snowfall, and the rest of the state is enjoying greater than normal amounts of the fluffy white stuff as well.

The winter got off to a good start with a first snow in the high desert around my house on November 5. After a road-closing blizzard right before New Year’s, we’ve had smaller but meaningful snowfalls throughout the winter.

For all you skiers, Ski New Mexico has a regularly updated snow report for all resorts in the state.

The winter season is a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors here in New Mexico. Even though the weather is milder than the northern tier of states, don’t forget common sense and safety precautions when you hit the trails. Dress in layers and be sure to include a waterproof outer layer in case of snow. Carry along plenty of water and snacks in your daypack, and off-piste safety gear. A fleece blanket in your car is a good idea, if you get stuck.

How will you be spending your beautiful weekend?

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