key largo sketches

“Oh, do doodle! Doodle, do!” urges Frogma. I went, I saw, I drew. However, I cannot identify:


When you are in a native forest of Key Largo, called a hammock, you will find not palms, but poisonwood, wild coffee (can’t drink anything it produces), hogplum (edible fruits), buttonwood, bahamian trees. I’m very sorry, but even standing in front of the wooden and brass plaques of the park, I could not tell the differences. It all looked like poisonwood to me. Poisonwood bears a fruit that the white crowned pigeon thrives upon. Do NOT touch poisonwood! when you go into the woods, do NOT use anything on the forest ground as toilet paper.tutti3

Beautiful mangroves send roots into the salty water, creating an ecosystem that supports many species of animals, both in the water and above. Purslane also grows in the salty ground and is delicious.

As unnative as the palm trees are cycads (with the exception of the species Zamia). Cycads are fascinating plants, “living fossils”, as they come from a period of around 200 million years ago — even before dinosaurs. I love them because they are so bizarre looking. Some plants will sport a huge giant cone in the center with strange fronds radiating out; one species in Africa bears a cone that is almost 90 lbs.

The Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Coral Gables has a wonderful collection of everything. There was not enough time to draw the alien looking trees, but here are the seeds of seven species of cycads that dropped their treasures on the ground. Our own New York Botanical Garden also has cycads in the Conservatory.

This is quite the alarmist post: do not eat cycad seeds. The flesh may contain a neurotoxin that might make you contract encephalitis. The warning goes out also for eating bats or game that might eat the cycad fruit. Professionals do make a flour and bread with the pulp, but those people know what they are doing.



I have planted every single seed pictured here. I’ll let you know if anything sprouts! –As of 24april, nothing but cups of dirt…  :  (

16sept2009: the cycads seeds resolve to remain dormant until the next ice age’s thaw. I shall harbor them until then…and plant herbs over them in the meantime.


13 Responses to ‘key largo sketches’

  1. Buck said, on March 27th, 2009 at 08:32 (Edit)

    Glorious sketches and lovely annotation. Thanks for taking the time to share them!

  2. tugster said, on March 27th, 2009 at 10:01 (Edit)

    thanks fer the lovely drawings: they make me want to read botany books and almost, almost make me want to taste them. That would be a bad idea, though, I gather.

  3. seabart said, on March 27th, 2009 at 18:34 (Edit)

    Welcome home! I trust the glorious sunrays from down south have energised & inspired you!

  4. Brian said, on March 27th, 2009 at 21:45 (Edit)

    These are fantastic! It looks like you had a productive trip. This batch of botanical images remind me very much of the fish paintings of William Buelow Gould (

    One question: How do you get your paintings into your blog?

  5. bowsprite said, on March 27th, 2009 at 22:14 (Edit)

    hello, Brian! thank you Buck, Bart, and Bugster, too! all paintings are scanned on an epson (11×17 images are scanned in three or four parts and tiled together). I use photoshop, a wacom tablet (with a stylus pen, not a mouse), all on a mac. Save images as jpeg, at 72 dpi, width around 7″. Import the jpeg at full size.

  6. Ivy said, on March 27th, 2009 at 23:13 (Edit)

    beautiful ! all of them ! I wish I could draw .
    welcome home

  7. bowsprite said, on March 27th, 2009 at 23:19 (Edit)

    Ivy, you’re a designer. You hire peons like us.

  8. Ivy said, on March 28th, 2009 at 09:52 (Edit)

    that makes me feel better ( NOT )…designers are just visual secretaries _ I coined that expression since 1992
    I should take your lead in taking some drawing classes where I can go beyond circle, triangle, sq shapes … but in life there are a thousand excuse – fevers, kids, napping …
    the good part of all these is that I am surround by your work !

  9. Dodo said, on March 29th, 2009 at 11:28 (Edit)

    the plant with the red flowers looks very much like a euphorbia! all euphorbias (spurges) contain a milky latex that varies in toxicity, and most are VERY irritating to the mucus membranes…I have heard of cases of people pruning them in enclosed environments (conservatories) and getting burns in the lungs just from breathing those latex fumes!! And yes – I can attest to a personal experience of the substance ending up in all the wrong places because I did not wash my hands as thoroughly as I should have….
    Your cycad seeds are fab – I had the chance to work with the genus Encephalartus last summer, and those are truly fascinating plants. Fairchild is high on my list of places to visit, as they have one of the worlds largest collection of these plants.
    Btw, Metopium toxiferum (poison wood) is related to poison ivy, both belonging to the Anarcadiaceae (cashew) family. FUN!

  10. Mage Bailey said, on March 29th, 2009 at 15:41 (Edit)

    Oh, welcome home and with such enthusiasms. Lovely thing those seeds. Delightful to find them in their marching rows.
    And, you encouraged me, I’m doodling tho not well.

  11. ponnvandu said, on March 29th, 2009 at 17:00 (Edit)

    Bowsprite, thanks for dropping by! Your sketches are great, much better than photos any day.

  12. Hudsonian said, on March 30th, 2009 at 23:13 (Edit)

    Identified or not, they’re beautiful. Thanks for rekindling memories of sailing amongst the mangroves.

  13. bonnie said, on April 4th, 2009 at 12:04 (Edit)

    Oops, looks like my work filter sent another comment off into comment oblivion. I’d said something inane (in a work day insane) so I’ll say it again –
    Lovely! Thanks!

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  1. […] spend much of last week in Key Largo. Unlike Christina over at Bowsprite, I didn’t exercise any particular artistic skills during the trip, but it was very worthwhile nonetheless. For my daughter Emily, it was first […]

  2. Aleksandra said, on 2010/03/08 at 22:52

    Beautiful drawings and interesting blog! See you soon 🙂

  3. Rigmor Lisbeth said, on 2010/04/03 at 10:21

    Oh so beautifull drawings!!! Do you remember Wild mann Steave Brill from Central Park 😀

  4. Peter Gander said, on 2010/08/05 at 02:54

    Lovely website Christina! Thanks for your comments on my ‘wave, Botany Bay’ painting. Now I can see why you are taken with it 😉

  5. Joy Sargent-Smith said, on 2011/06/07 at 08:39

    Lovely pics! I was born in Key West and lived on the Keys for several years, so they make me a little homesick. I live in another part of the state now though with a more “northern” climate. On cycads, I have some Sego “palms” in my yard and when they drop seeds, I have found they will usually sprout quite easily right on the ground if it’s moist. They don’t really need to be buried in dirt. I am constantly pulling up the volunteer seedlings.

    • bowsprite said, on 2011/06/07 at 08:45

      Oh, thank you, Joy! all my little seeds did not wake up. I would love to try again. Yes, the Keys are so special. Lucky you to be born there! but, the bugs…! i don’t know how the Semioles did it!

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