Hickory Tree Along the Des Plaines River

Hickory along the river


This seems like a good morning to look back, while I wait for the snow to melt and for things to green up.  And other things to start flying around and biting (sigh)  🙂

Fifty years ago the Lake County Forest Preserve District voted to preserve a green corridor along the Des Plaines River.  It would run from the Wisconsin border all the way through the county to the bordering county to the south.  I have just read that the last piece has been purchased now, and nearly all of the trail has been completed.  An incredible array of habitats have been preserved, rich in biodiversity.  It took a great deal of thinking ahead, and nurturing of relationships with landowners along the way.

This painting isn’t that old, but I did paint it some years ago.  It still stands as one of my favorites.  I have seen wonderful things in my walks along the Des Plaines River Trail, among them these wonderful old Shagbark Hickory trees watching out over the river.  I love their gnarly look and their peeling bark.  They were one of the first trees I “met” when I became involved with ecological restoration many years ago.  When I see one I am swept back to those exciting days when learning leapt out of the classroom and into the field, and I met people who shared my passion.


24 thoughts on “Hickory Tree Along the Des Plaines River

  1. Jim in IA says:

    I like the Shagbarks. That is a really nice painting. I can understand why you see it as a favorite.

    That is great about the Des Plaines river trail. It is a wonderful resource that needs all the help it can get.

    Thanks for stopping by my various posts. It is fun to see you and others there.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      Thank you, Jim, I’m glad you like my painting.
      Many of the preserves along the river serve as sponges to absorb high water after storms, so they provide a valuable service that way as well.
      I enjoy your posts 🙂

  2. shoreacres says:

    The name “shagbark hickory” seems familiar. I do remember we used to shell hickory nuts when I was growing up in Iowa, but I don’t know if that was the species of tree they came from.

    Those corridors can be wonderful, even when they’re not so extensive. There’s one that runs from a nature preserve north of me along a bayou and some utility land, down to NASA. I used to live on Nasa Rd 1, the southern terminus of the corridor.

    Most people outside the area don’t realize that Nasa has quite a bit of land and quite a herd of deer. The white tails used to travel from the preserve to Nasa, and some would wander over to the strip of woods behind my place. One year, a mother brought twin fawns on a regular basis — encouraged by some weird woman who’d trot out with a gallon bucket of seed corn every now and then.

    Eventually, the lost their spots. The came by themselves more often, and then I weaned them off the corn and they were gone. I had to content myself with my raccoons at that point.

    There are still people around who remember the day one of the Nasa deer crossed the road and discovered the joys of a revolving door in a VERY high end department store called Sakowitz. The deer got in by itself, but had to be helped out. Chaos reigned for a time, but the deer wasn’t hurt. I heard some stories about the perfume counter, though.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    Very nice painting, it has good balance – the Preserve sounds lovely. I wrote a post over a year ago about shagbarks, I never knew how slowly they grow. It makes me treasure them even more.

  4. Coral Cottage Kim says:

    Melissa, Isn’t it amazing when we listen; that the trees can speak to our souls and our passions? I’m glad you remember that first time. Shaggy trees are full of texture not to mention character, like old people. Nice painting. xo kim

  5. Steve Gingold says:

    This is lovely, Melissa. I also am a fan of shagbark hickorys (or should that be hickories?). We have several on the sloping hillside next to the store where I work.
    I really enjoy the colors you create in your paintings. I also like the egret. 🙂

    • melissabluefineart says:

      Thank you Steve 🙂 And you spotted the egret! Yay. There is also a little nuthatch working its way down the trunk of the near tree.
      I was just out for a walk today and was enjoying a small stand of hickories. Ah, to be outdoors again!

  6. myrsbytes says:

    Your painting is so dreamy: the mist, the hint of blue sky, the golden bark and leaves and grass… and is that a white bird in the lower third? It feels like a perfect moment.

    • melissabluefineart says:

      I painted that several years ago when I was going through a tough time, so looking at it now does feel like a dream. Your appreciation for my work really moves me~thank you! Yes, you spotted the egret 🙂 The nuthatch may be difficult to see on the computer. They are so cute, aren’t they?

  7. myrsbytes says:

    Oh, I just read that it is an egret! I will look for the nuthatch now. I saw a red-breasted nuthatch for the first time last week. So cute. I was surprised by its tiny size.

  8. Steve Schwartzman says:

    I didn’t have to wait long at all to see you show some hickory trees, and your painting makes clear the reason for the name shagbark. (By coincidence, I photographed a bird in New Zealand called a pied shag.) I looked up this species of tree and in Wikipedia found: “Mature shagbarks are easy to recognize because, as their name implies, they have shaggy bark. This characteristic is, however, only found on mature trees; young specimens have smooth bark.” The scientific name Carya ovata reminded me of the hickory’s genus-mate, the pecan, which is scientifically named after your state, Carya illinoiensis. Do you see many pecans up there, and have you painted any?

  9. melissabluefineart says:

    Yup, Steve, this post was for you 🙂 Sadly, we have no pecans. They were not present in Peoria, either, when I lived there. Perhaps they grow in southern Illinois. It surprises me to learn that they are named after Illinois, when I associate them more with Texas. However last fall I bought some pecans and have been stratifying them with the intention of planting them out and seeing what happens. One school of thought with global warming suggests that here we will have mild winters, and more trees will grow. The other school of thought suggests the opposite, that our winters will become more beset with cold and storms. Sadly, in my view, the latter seems to be holding sway! I’m still going to plant my pecans…

  10. myrsbytes says:

    I must admit I am a little prone to melancholy… life seems like a curse sometimes. But often, places like the one in your painting, soothe my soul for a few hours. Your choice of colours and the texture of your strokes really captures that mood for me – the sounds of water, wind and birds, the feel of the air on my face and the graceful beauty of a wooded river on a calm, slightly overcast day. I’m sure your actual painting would be even more moving!

    I’ve only ever seen one nuthatch and I was totally charmed by the way its head and neck curved up from its body. Strangely, it kind of reminded me of how a salamander’s head and neck curve when they look up.

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