Fall on the Dunes


Here is another tree with personality, it seemed to me. A black oak, Quercus velutina, he is in the vanguard, stepping out early onto the dunes. Some decades from now organic matter will build up here and there will be more trees but for now he is alone. You can see his family there behind him, on a distant, older dune farther from the lake. Fall colors here are muted to gentle shades of orange and yellow, shared by both the oak and the little bluestem.

Published by melissabluefineart

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10 thoughts on “Fall on the Dunes

  1. Someone added a dollop of anthropomorphizing to her coffee this morning. Those are certainly pleasant colors you’ve presented us with in the oak and the little bluestem. I could almost see those grasses as flames.

    Did you know that English has the fancy adjective velutinous? It means ‘covered with dense, soft, silky hairs,’ and is closely related to the word velvet. That raises the question of what feature(s) of the black oak the species name velutina applies to.

    1. Yes I did know that. As I recall, the petioles of the leaves are velvety, and possible also the underside rib. And yes I figured you’d take exception to that but I can’t help it. That tree just felt like a “he”.

      1. Well, no trees, for one thing. There are grasses, and an assortment of forbs. Salt cedar tries to colonize, but it’s an undesirable invasive, even though it does help to stabilize the dunes.

        Right now, unfortunately, our dunes are notable for their absence. Tropical Storm Beta picked them up and desposited them hither and yon. My favorite beach has been swept pretty clean. Maybe this weekend I’ll go down and take a better look. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not an unfamiliar experience: there’s a reason there are highway signs that warn of sand on the road. After Ike, there were feet of sand on the coastal highway. Still, the pretty flowers are gone for the time being.

      2. We are losing our sand. Lake Michigan is eating our shoreline~first the beach disappeared, and now the foredunes are going. I fear the dune I show here will be gone within a year or two~it is happening really quickly. It is weird to see a tree colonizing so close to the Lake and when I think about it, I’ve seen other oaks try it over the years and eventually not survive. Just one dune back, though, representing I don’t know how long in terms of geological time, the older dunes support an oak savanna. When a tree falls over you can see how thin the veneer of soil is, over the sand.
        So Beta got your area~as you say, not an uncommon experience but tough to see nevertheless . In fact it is remarkable how the ecosystem can put itself back together.

  2. Hi! Yes, it really is a lean, dry soil and the vegetation is sparse so it is remarkable that this little tree has gotten a foothold.

  3. Lovely painting! Your black oak is an undaunted explorer, putting roots down and hoping to flourish in “unaccustomed earth.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter”) Your dunes are so colorful! Here in New England they are more stark and treeless, beautiful in a different way.

  4. Thank you so much, Barbara. I agree, he does seem very brave. I hope to see your beautiful dunes some day.

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