Listings: Threatened, Federal Endangered Species Act; Endangered, Canada (SARA)
The Plant’s Story
Pitcher’s thistle, Cirsium pitcheri, is one of many rare or declining species inhabiting dunes of the western Great lakes region. Fine wooly hairs on its stems and leaves are an adaptation to its beach environment so that it can retain water and reflect the sun. Many thistles are considered invasive. However, Pitcher’s thistle’s adaptation to its specific environment means it does not diverge from its favored locales. Pitcher’s thistle is vulnerable to habitat loss by shoreline development, dune stabilization projects, trampling by ATVs and foot traffic. Scientists have learned that isolated colonies of plants, like animals, can become increasingly genetically narrow in a process called genetic drift, further weakening their ability to remain robust and reproduce.
The Artist’s Story: Derek Norman
After spending approximately five years in search of a specimen, finally, with the help and assistance of Marlin Bowles, Plant Conservation Biologist, Morton Arboretum, and Dr. Tim Bell, Chicago State University, I was able to find a suitable plant. In the early summer of 2007 a highly detailed pencil drawing was completed over two sweltering, hot humid days in the company of biting flies, a colony of ants and the occasional attacking red-winged blackbird. I then began to render the drawing in ink, first establishing the outline, then slowly inking in and adding the detail with a “stipple” pen technique.
More of the plant’s story and the artist’s story can be found in the exhibit catalog, available at the exhibition venues or online from the ASBA.