After an unexpected allergic reaction from a bald-faced hornet sting, I feel fortunate to experience another autumn season. As woodland creatures prepare for the winter by caching food and planning for shelter, I start to wonder if the old wives’ tales told to predict winter will prove true this time. If so, we might be in for a good one. And, by good I mean power outages and lots of shoveling.
But now, the calm before the storm. A near autumn-peak woodland. Deciduous trees will soon lay down their leaves to reveal naked branches, as they curve and twist this way and that way. The decaying leaves will soon provide nourishment to the naked figures, and an insulated vessel for overwintering insects. The systems at work, even during what appears to be dormancy, are complex and wonderful.
Around the same time last year in late March / early April we went for a walk in a woodland near the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. We were on the lookout for spring ephemeral wildflowers, as this is their time of year to shine, and then shortly after, bid us Adieu until next spring. One of my favorite spring ephemerals is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). A single leaf and flower emerge from under the leaf litter. The leaf, if injured, bleeds a red-orange juice, hence the name (bloodroot).
We came upon an old tree, upon which beautiful green moss sprawled. The forest floor had been blanketed with bloodroot flowers, but they were just coming up and the flowers were half closed. As we returned to this same spot on our way back, the flowers were on full display. It was the largest population of bloodroot I’ve ever seen and what a show!
Not long ago, I met Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum) growing on a dry rocky slope in Harriman State Park on the NY/NJ boarder, near Pine Meadow Lake. I had already been familiar with Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), but Winged Sumac was new to me. Our acquaintance was in the fall season. The plant’s foliage had been ablaze with various shades of red, and I thought it would make a great painting.
Usually sometime in January, I start dreaming of native wildflowers and the many pollinators that visit them. One of my favorite native herbaceous plants is Monarda fistolusa aka Wild Bergamot or Bee Balm. This plant is in the mint family and smells similar to the bergamot used in earl gray tea. In this painting, a skipper butterfly is having a nectar/pollen snack on Wild Bergamot. Not sure what type of skipper it is, but my guess is – Zabulon Skipper.
As a family, we love adventuring to Blooming Hill Farm. It is an organic farm located in South Blooming Grove, NY. Salad greens and root veggies are always available there in the middle of winter. The folks that run the place are the best! There are also these old rusty trucks laying around on the property. I’m not sure what the story is, but I’m pretty sure they don’t run anymore. One thing is for sure – they make an excellent subject matter for a watercolor painting!
Here is another old rusty truck painting from Blooming Hill Farm. This painting found a home with our friends Jordan and Miranda.