Originally featured in Points West magazine in Fall 2014
Araujia Sericifera by Penelope Gottlieb
Penelope Gottlieb’s Araujia Sericifera addresses how invasive plant species cause harm to native North American animal and plant life. Gottlieb painted a beautiful weed on top of an original nineteenth-century John James Audubon print. At first glance, this action simply contributes to the aesthetic serenity of the Audubon print. A closer look, however, reveals the true nature of the flower—the deadly weed tangles the broad-winged hawk and suffocates the plants.
Araujia sericifera is a beautiful, white flower introduced to North America in the nineteenth century as a decorative plant. When introduced to a new environment, non-native species can become highly aggressive and invasive in new territories. Now, it is considered a harmful weed. Native to South America, araujia sericifera is a fast-growing, vined plant that grows on evergreen trees. It often wins the competition for food, light, and water by starving native plants of nutrients. Its sticky secretions trap and kill bees, butterflies, and moths, gaining it the name “Cruel Plant.” While Gottlieb attracts viewers to Araujia Sericifera through its initial beauty, her work encourages viewers to probe deeper and ask vital questions about our country’s non-native plant management.
Penelope Gottlieb (b. 1952). Araujia Sericifera, 2011. Hand-colored lithograph, 37.5 x 25 inches. Gift of The Alexander Bodini Foundation, in memory of Alexander Bodini. 10.13.1