Nocturnal Botanical Ontario

Final post in our introduction to The Plant Practice series. We go gently into the night with Sara Angelucci as she records the flowers and insects in her home territory in Canada with astonishing images reminiscent of still-life paintings. These milkweed pods were originally featured in our 'requiem' anthology, Dark Mountain: Issue 19 and we are delighted to have space to show other plants from her ongoing photographic series.
is a photo-based artist living in Toronto, Canada. Her work has been exhibited across Canada, in the US and Europe. She is an Adjunct Professor in Photography at Ryerson University, and her work is represented by the Stephen Bulger Gallery and the Patrick Mikhail Gallery.
The original impetus to work with plants came several years ago. As I scrambled to reconcile the deep shock of losing my sister (who took her own life) I turned to the cycles of nature to make sense of the cycles of life. Living in a raw state of grief, my consciousness recognised and attached itself to other griefs. The continuing devastating effects of climate change on species across the planet reinforced the need to mourn beyond my personal circle.

I have been working on this series since 2019 and it is ongoing. It began initially around our house in the Pretty River Valley in Southern Ontario, a beautiful place surrounded by protected Crown land. But as I worked and learned more about the plants I began to explore areas around ponds and rivers, along the shoulder of country roads, and on pathways in the forest, places where I discover diverse flora. And I have extended the project to revisit the same plants throughout the seasons, bearing witness to their transformation from initial sprouting, then blooming, to the fascinating seed phase. Over this intense time, Nocturnal Botanical Ontario has grown to embrace what it means to be here to both mourn what is disappearing, but also to celebrate what endures.

Working at night, my visual perception and orientation is ungrounded. Feeling my way through the tall grasses, my senses are on  heightened alert. Responding intuitively, I work with the scanner to uncover specimens that grow in proximity to one another. I scan plants in a priori encounters as luminescent images emerge through the darkness. Attracted by my presence and the light, insects appear and interact to create their own compositions.

June 18 – Moth, assortment of seeds, flowers, leaves

The detailed ecologies that emerge reveal the invisible and layered histories embedded in these images. Indigenous plants grow entwined with foreign, cultivated and invasive species. Considering these compositions closely, my passion and attachment to this place are entangled with deep colonial histories and ongoing commercial interests in the land.

Using high-resolution imaging tools, looking closely raises difficult questions. To whom does the land really belong? How did these plants come to be entwined? These photographs are also reminiscent of Dutch still-life paintings, memento mori reminding us of the brevity of life and nature and calling us to a spiritual awakening.

June 28 – Silica, Thyme, Horsetail, Wild Carrot, Sedge, Ragwort, Water Iris


June 30 – Wild grape vine, Vetch, Bladder Campion, Horse Grass, Goldenrod, and other plants


July 24 – Wild Grape, Queen Anne’s Lace,  Daisy Fleabane


July 31 – Spiderwort, Bellflower, Pea Flower, Queen Anne’s Lace, Salsify, Forget-Me-Nots

You can see the full series of images on Sara Angelucci’s website here. The Plant Practice series is edited by Mark Watson. If you’d like to take part in this series in the future, do send a pitch to online editor Charlotte Du Cann at [email protected]


Dark Mountain: Issue 19

Our spring 2019 issue is an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork that revolves around the theme of death, lament and regeneration


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