It’s that time of the month again, when I put together my Wild Yorkshire sketchbook spread for the Dalesman magazine. I’m pleased with the way that the illustrations have come together but, for the lettering, I’m going for a slightly different technique.
Last month, I found that the Noodler’s ink that I use, which is waterproof when dry, was taking a surprisingly long time to dry on layout paper.
Even when I came back to my work after a break, there was still a danger that I’d smear a carefully hand-lettered heading or paragraph
I’ve switched to ordinary, non-waterproof Lamy fountain pen ink, which usually dries in minutes and instead of layout paper I’ve gone for a classic letter-writing paper, Basildon Bond, which is a pleasure to use: after all that is what it was designed for. It’s more substantial than layout paper, which gives me a feeling of confidence, something that I need when I attempt my neatest lettering with my waywardly shaky hand.
Once I get into the rhythm of lettering, I enjoy it. It just when I’m getting started that I’m a bit stuttery.
The pad comes with a pre-ruled backing sheet with lines that are at just the right spacing when I write with a Lamy Safari with a medium nib.
Perennial Dog’s Mercury, Mercurialis perennis, is already in flower in the hedgebanks, or at least the male flowers are now showing. Each plant is either male or female but I’ve yet to spot any female flowers; they are long-stalked and grow from the axils. An axil is the joint where a leaf stalk branches from the stem of a plant. Axilla is the Latin for armpit.
Like the petty spurge that I drew yesterday, dog’s mercury is a member of the Spurge Family, Euphorbiacaeae. It spreads by root-like rhizomes and is common throughout most of Britain in woods, hedges, scree and in the sheltered crevices (grykes) of limestone pavements. It is rare in Ireland.
The male flowers are just four or five millmetres across and grow in catkin-like tassels. Each has three bract-like tepals.
Petty spurge, Euphorbia peplus, is a common weed of gardens and waste ground but its tiny green flowers look quite exotic in close up. Those horned glands give it a hint of the extra-terrestial.
The winged capsules are the female parts of the flower. There are three here, the central one much larger than those at top and bottom of the picture. Each capsule has a tuft of stigmas (five on the lower one).
Appropriately, the male flowers are the ones that are sporting the stag’s horns (which are glands). Again, there are three in the photograph and I think that on the tips of the stamens of the top one there’s a hint of yellow pollen.
The the small beak-like fleshy ‘leaves’ that can be seen clasping the top and bottom flowers are a structure that is special to euphorbias called the cyathophyll. I think that must be a botanical term for ‘cup-like leaf’ because phyll means leaf and cyathos is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘A cup or ladle used for drawing wine from a bowl’.
The larger ‘leaves’ clasping each flower are bracts, which look very similar to the leaves in this species. Each umbel of flowers has three rays (primary branches).
The petty spurge is not thought to be a native to the British Isles but is believed to be long-established here, since before 1600.