Aspen, perhaps

As homage to Betje Polak’s scientific drawings of pollen, this morning I studied a leaf found on wintery peatland ground in the Hoge Venen / Hautes Fagnes in East Belgium. From the length of the leaf’s stem, I thought it might be Aspen.

Seeing these leaves on the ground had reminded me of how scarce Aspen is in Scotland. The edge between our bogs and forests are often sharp lines of plantation spruce. I once tried to soften such a line, in an earlier project where I cultivated aspen.

Leaf – perhaps an Aspen – with a photograph by Ed Iglehart of Silver Flowe, Galloway, Scotland.

Back in Wageningen, I pinned my sample leaf on a noticeboard – imagining the presence of aspen in a panorama of Silver Flowe (a Ramsar site in south west Scotland). Aspens are known for how their leaves move in wind, making a rustle that can reach a crescendo in autumn. The leaves edges are toothed – a definitive shape that I need to learn.

The tree bark has whitish areas, with a diamond patterns.

This sketch followed. I thought about how a leaf can be collected and stilled. The intricate tonal range caught me.

I was tempted to keep working, but then decided to use this leaf as a pointer to take a breath outside, where the sun is shining.

It takes a hot summer to bring Aspen to flower: perhaps I may learn more about the ancient history of curious and beautiful tree from Betje Polak’s innovative studies of pollen in peat.

I am marking World Wetlands Day by spending a week tracing how peatland lives might ‘appear’ in and around Wageningen University. Maybe the biodiversity of peatlands can be tracked down in the archives, in the landscape, in artwork, in libraries… ?  This project also seeks connections with artists working elsewhere on wetland themes. As artist and author of this post, responsibility for the content and any unintended errors is mine. Kate Foster

Follow #wetlandsketches #art4wetlands on twitter – @peat_cultures  

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