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.