I finally decided the hellebore picture was good enough for a Christmas card so off it has gone for scanning and printing.
Massonia pygmaea is currently in flower and I want to add this to a potential series on the genus, though new species are being named faster than I can draw. M. pygmaea is very small and has anther filaments of differing lengths (3 long and 3 short).
There are two forms; one with hairy leaves (known as ssp pygmaea) and one with smooth leaves (known as ssp kamiesbergensis).
Given the small size I considered drawing both forms on one A3 piece of paper. But I have decided to draw them separately on A4, for several reasons:
- Botanists are mischievous little tinkers and if I draw the two subspecies together it would inevitably then be followed by their reclassification into separate full species..
- I want the series to reflect the variation in the genus – even if this means A4 for the smallest and probably A2 for the biggest (M. depressa and M. bifolia – depending on whether the latter is still counted as a Massonia at the time as it keeps getting shifted around).
- Two separate pieces means potentially two sales instead of one, for the same amount of work. I’m not daft.
Because the flowers will be finished in a couple of weeks I will be relying on photographs and sketches once the initial outlines are done. The leaves will be there until the bulbs go dormant in April, but they will expand significantly (ssp kamiesbergensis especially). With this in mind I have been taking reference photographs. Below you can see a picture of the flowers. Both subspecies show the diagnostic mix of long and short anther filaments. I note from my own plants that ssp pygmaea has a style shorter than the anthers, whilst in ssp kamiesbergensis it is longer. Unlike the last species I drew (M. longipes) the style seemingly completely fills the flower tube, leaving me wondering what attracts pollinators if no nectar is accessible.