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“Dangerous Blossoms” Exhibition Highlights Native Plant Species

POPPY: This watercolor by Gail Bracegirdle is part of the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition currently on view at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. To confirm hours and for more information, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

POPPY: This watercolor by Gail Bracegirdle is part of the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition currently on view at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. To confirm hours and for more information, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

A range of works in a variety of media by artists Silvere Boureau, Gail Bracegirdle, Linda Brooks Hirschman, Bisa Butler, Dolores Cohen, Lora Durr, Kathie Miranda, Linnea W. Rhodes, William Vandever, Andrew Wilkinson, and Anne Zeman comprise the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s current show, “Dangerous Blossoms.”

The title of the show says it all. But while the focus is on poisonous and invasive species that do harm to humans, insects, and other plant species, the images on view celebrate their beauty at the same time. You’ll find “Flowery Foes” such as Foxglove, Pokeweed, and Porcelain Berry.

You’ll learn of the potent secrets of poisonous plants such as those which authors like Agatha Christie have favored as a means of murder as well as how beautiful but fatal flowers are increasingly destroying native species in our region.

“New toxicities spell the death of native plants, who have no defenses against the exotics,” says Curator Diana Moore. “Despite their beauty, invasives such as loosestrife, certain celandines, honeysuckles, and multiflora rose spell doom for native landscapes.”

All art is for sale, a 35 percent of each sale supports D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission. “A key factor of D&R Greenway stewardship is the removal of invasive species, replacing them with the natives that belong here,” says President Linda Mead.

To this end, the D&R Greenway sells native plants grown from seed to local gardens and gardeners. Natives require less water and fertilizer to thrive. They evolved with their pollinators, nourishing insects and birds over the centuries. The seeds are gathered by volunteers on the Land Trust’s preserves.

Highlights of “Dangerous Blossoms” include Silvere Boureau’s oil paintings of Porcelain Vine, Foxglove, and Belladonna, and Andrew Wilkinson’s outstanding photographs.

Don’t miss Anne Zeman’s photographs. “I began photographing flowers for their beauty,” says Ms. Zeman. “I now photograph plants primarily for identification and to understand how they relate to their environment. To look at a plant closely you become aware of something else — perhaps how an insect is drawn to it or how it survives in harsh or unusual conditions,” she says.

For the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition, Ms. Zeman writes, in the commentary to her work, that she “began to think about the unique relationship of beauty and danger, whether it be toxic to humans, insects, or the environment. The poisonous properties of many plants are well known, but other dangers lurk, too: the Round-leaved Sundew’s sticky moonscape is lethal to the insect that lands on it; the Pitcher Plant lures with sweet nectar only to consume the unsuspecting; and the lovely looking Porcelain Berry is so invasive it chokes out edible native plants necessary for our birds and insects.”

Of course, no exhibition at the Greenway would be complete without advice on the environment. In this instance you will find listings of alternative natives such as Swamp Milkweed, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Hollow Stem Joe Pye, Swamp Rose, New England Aster, and Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint as well as a Top Ten List of What Not to Plant: Japanese Barberry, Butterfly Bush, European Privet, Siebold and Linden Viburnums, Amur and Japanese Honeysuckles, Purple Loosestrife, and Callery Pear, which have been found to be most invasive to the landscapes managed by the D&R Greenway Trust.

Emily Blackman, who manages the Native Plant Nursery, mentions the following perennials, shrubs, grasses and sedges as currently available: Hollow-Stem Joe Pye, Autumn Helenium, Narrow-Leaved Mountain Mint; Buttonbush, Sweet Pepperbush, Steeplebush; Pennsylvania Sedge, Bottlebrush Grass, and Woolgrass. A current nursery catalog is available online.

“Dangerous Blossoms” is in three rooms at the Johnson Education Center, including the Marie L. Matthews Gallery, named for the noted Princeton artist and a nature photographer, at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place (off Rosedale Road) through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. The nursery is open to the public from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays through the end of August (except July 5). For more on the nursery, contact Emily Blackman at (609) 924-4646, ext. 126, or eblackman@drgreenway.org. For more on D&R Greenway, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

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