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Ask an Exhibitionist Bonus: Literal Water Lentils

August 24, 2012

by Helen Chappell

While I was scoping out the answer to our first Ask an Exhibitionist question, I learned a nifty little fact about one of our exhibits that I want to share here.

Part of our huge Mountains to Sea exhibit is a black water swamp diorama.  The water is made using a sheet of plexiglass with a resin layer for texture, like I talked about in a previous post, but it also has ducks and plants like duckweed “floating” in it.

Photo of black water swamp diorama

The advantage of floating on a solid plastic surface is that you’ll never sink.

Duckweed, if you’re not familiar with it, is a tiny aquatic plant that grows on the surface of still or slow water.  Its texture is somewhere between pond slime and lily pads.  Another common name for duckweed is “water lentils,” which should give you a good general idea of duckweed’s size and shape.

Close-up photo of duckweed

Yum? Photo courtesy of Eric Guinther.

Our fake duckweed looks even more like lentils than the real thing – because it is lentils!  It’s made from red lentils painted green.  It’s just one of the many examples of crazy creativity around the Museum.

Close-up photo of fake duckweed

A few of our water lentils need some repainting. The swamp water could use a good dusting, too. How often do you get to say that outside of the museum world?

If you have a question you’d like to Ask an Exhibitionist, email us or tweet it with the hashtag #AskAnExhibitionist!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. eric_bowen permalink
    August 24, 2012 12:07 pm

    Why didn’t y’all use green lentils or French? Too big? Not bright enough green? Too expensive?

  2. exhibitionistwendy permalink*
    August 24, 2012 3:50 pm

    Hi Eric,
    As you guessed, it’s that green lentils aren’t really green enough. At least, they aren’t the same green color as duckweed, so they’d have to be painted just as the brown ones were.
    Thanks for asking!

  3. August 27, 2012 1:34 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    by Helen Chappell

  4. March 21, 2013 1:02 pm

    We’re about to do a similar exhibit in a sales center in Naples, FL; showcasing the beauty of our Everglades. We’re most concerned with how to best keep the “water” looking wet and real as the exhibit gets dusty. What’s the standard procedure for good housekeeping for this type of display? Especially with duckweed, cattails and sawgrass clutterting up the water surface. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • exhibitionisthelen permalink*
      March 22, 2013 9:38 am

      That’s a great question, Carlos, and is something we sometimes struggle with too (as the dusty picture shows). Let me ask our fabrication folks and get back to you.

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