The villains of Dangerous Beauty are some of the familiar plants that make the Eastern Shore so beautiful in spring. In this show of watercolors and drawings of invasive plants, now on view at Adkins Arboretum, you will see the pretty white blossoms of Bradford pear trees, elegant purple wisteria blossoms that so often grace porch trellises, and the orange daylilies that brighten our roadsides. But as botanical artists Lee D’Zmura and Tina Brown will tell you, there’s something wrong here.

On view through July 27, with a reception on Sat., June 23 from 3 to 5 p.m., this show was six years in the making. Creating botanical art is a slow business, as the character of each plant must be faithfully reproduced, and these two artists have a message to get across.

Invasives are plants that spread aggressively outside of their natural ranges. When they colonize a new area, there are often no natural controls, such as insects, diseases or foraging animals, to keep them in check, and they may choke out native plants and destroy the food sources of native animals.

The arching prickly red stems of wineberry shown in one of Brown’s mixed media paintings have become a familiar sight in our local fields, and English ivy, illustrated in a watercolor by D’Zmura, smothers trees in many neighborhoods. Both were originally brought to North America as garden plants.

Brown explained, “Sometimes people plant them. Sometimes they come by accident.”

An example of a species that arrived by accident is the one animal in the show, the brown marmorated stink bug. In a small drawing showing the exquisitely intricate patterning on the stink bug’s shell, D’Zmura portrays the annoying insect that has quickly become all too familiar to most of us since it arrived from Asia in 1998 hidden in some packing materials.

Noting the huge amount of damage to fruit and vegetable crops that these insects cause, D’Zmura explained, “I thought equating invasive insects and plants would help people understand the dangers involved.”

The works of these two artists both contrast and complement each other. D’Zmura’s watercolors are precise and highly detailed, thanks to the skills she developed through her years of technical drawing as a landscape architect. Brown’s works glow with color. Softer and more atmospheric than D’Zmura’s, they give a sense of how dense growths of invasives dominate their environments.

D’Zmura, whose studio is in St. Michaels, is a familiar face locally, having taught several botanical art workshops at the Arboretum and at the St. Michaels Art League. When she was invited to show her work at the Arboretum, she suggested a joint exhibition with Brown.

“We both studied at Brookside Gardens,” said D’Zmura. “We took classes together and share a common interest.”

D’Zmura earned her certificate in Botanical Art at Brookside Gardens School of Botanical Art and Illustration and now teaches classes in advanced watercolor at Brookside. A resident of Barnesville, Md., Brown teaches botanical art at the U.S. Botanic Garden and has illustrated guidebooks on the wildflowers, history, geology and lore of Sugarloaf Mountain, which she can see from her studio.

Both artists are passionate about environmental issues and see their work as an important way to reach the public. As D’Zmura said, “I feel I have a certain responsibility to educate people.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, sponsored in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through July 27 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build a new LEED-certified Arboretum Center and entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

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