20 x 22 in | 50.8 x 55.9 cm
These saplings looked to me like children dashing into the sunlight after school, their arms waving in celebration of their freedom. It was such a happy scene, one of youthful exuberance, that I couldn’t resist painting it. “Dashing into the sunlight” may not be far-fetched even for trees if we consider how rapidly they colonized this field. The parent trees grew in dense stands, crowded to the edges of the fields during the many years that these fields were farmed. New seedlings had little chance under the farmer’s plow. But the year that the field became a park, seedlings suddenly found fertile ground and sunshine. The result was the botanical equivalent of happiness—luxurious growth.
These favorable growing conditions can trick amateur botanists like me. When I was trying to identify these trees I might have ruled out the Trembling Aspen because the top leaves on these trees were double the size shown in my field guide. They were much larger than those you would see on older trees. Plant growth hormones, called auxins, concentrate at the ends of the branches, especially the upper ones, resulting in faster growth and larger leaves at the top.
The field was covered with white, flat-topped, flower clusters that resemble fine lace, a feature that gives rise to their common name, Queen Anne’s Lace. Their other common name—Bird’s Nest Flower—seems more appropriate for most of the flowers in this painting because the flower heads curl upward in the fall forming an enclosure that resembles a small bird’s nest.
Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides) and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carola) can be seen throughout Canada and Eastern United States. This field is in one of the many parks surrounding Toronto that plants have reclaimed from farmland.