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Bright Green Butterflies with Golden Tails

28 x 24 in | 71.1 x 61 cm

One project that has always captured my imagination is discovering the beauty in common and unappreciated flora. No tree fits this description better than the Ashleaf Maple. It is considered a weed tree, unattractive and useless except for its wood, which can be made into boxes (Thus its other name, Box-elder). It’s a messy thing with too many branches, all of which seem to grow at crazy angles so that the crown looks like an old broom stuck in the ground.

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Yet, every tree has its day. In early spring, long tassels of tiny pollen flowers hang from the male trees of this species. As each pair of new leaves pushes out from the twig over each flower string, the combination looks like a green butterfly with a long tail. I walked past these trees every day marveling at their beauty. One evening, as the sun was setting behind a large tree they looked particularly striking. The tree looked alive with hundreds of iridescent green butterflies trailing long golden tails. I have attempted to capture that in this painting.

Ash-leaf Maples (Acer negundum) can be seen throughout most of eastern and central United States and in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. Indeed, their common name in Canada is Manitoba Maple. This particular tree lives on the banks of the Don River, in a city park in downtown Toronto.

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