Dead River Trail

Dead River Trail Bur Oak

Standing on the trail with your back toward Lake Michigan, you can see the layers of habitat. In the distance a line of trees on a very old moraine, and next closer is a ridge of shrubby brush and smaller trees. Then the wet meadow where once I would see so many butterflies on the wing, back when I was a monitor. It was heaven. Now that I’ve hung up my net, so to speak, I must stay on the trail with all the other visitors. The red-orange tree in the middle distance is a black oak, Quercus velutina, which as you can see holds onto its leaves through the winter. Leaning into the scene is a young bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa. I really liked how its gnarly branches were set off against the horizontal bands of color behind it. Although young, its bark is already thick and corky. Bur oaks are well able to withstand fire, and so are the big open oaks you see dotted through a prairie. Black oaks dominate at Illinois Beach State Park, because they like the sand. I would say that the bur oak represents a later stage of succession, as organic material has built up on the older dunes. In fact, this oak is older than it looks, just smaller because it is on fairly lean soil. I believe it is about 25 years old, based on my memory of seeing it grow there.

This painting is very small, just 5×7. I painted it as a little break from concentrating on the big commission.

Published by melissabluefineart

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7 thoughts on “Dead River Trail

  1. Lovely intimate landscape featuring the gnarly foreground tree, with lots of context in the middle and background. The color contrasts have lots of impact, so do the lines of the curving branches.

  2. The Dead River Trail and Illinois Beach State Park—what fruitful times we had there. As a local, you know the places in ways we visitors never could, and also in ways probably few other local people do, so it’s good that you’re documenting many of the things, and the changes in things, that you see there. The image of this painting shows up in my browser at a default size of 8.5 inches wide, therefore larger than it actually is.

    1. Yes indeed we did. I have a strong emotional attachment for the park, and I love it that now when I am there there is an additional layer of connection from when the two of you were here as well.

  3. I love how you describe what it is we’re looking at, the kinds of trees and the soil that anchors them. Those gnarly branches of the bur oak are very appealing. I looked at a range map and discovered that we don’t have that kind of oak here. Beautiful little painting ~ I love the contrast of the reddish brown oak leaves and the blue-gray branches and trees in the distance.

    1. Oh good, I’m always worried that I’m getting too detailed.
      I really love those gnarly branches, too. I’m so glad you like the little painting~thank you.

  4. Bur oaks are one of my favorites, and I especially like the way this one spreads across the canvas. I did have to grin when this occurred to me: if you ever paint a grouping of several Bur oaks, especially if they’re in a line, perhaps you could title it “Macrocarpal Tunnel”! (I’ll let myself out, now…)

    1. They are favorites of mine, too, Linda. You made me laugh with that one! When I was in college I worked for a lawyer, doing filing. He did workman’s compensation cases, and that was my introduction to carpal tunnel syndrome. I remember once I got a paper cut, getting some pages into the filing cabinet. He immediately asked if I wanted to file for benefits!! Hahahaha. Obviously I declined.

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