Well Protected

Sharp spines, thick shells, noxious odors — the lengths a tree will go to protect its seed! I found these while exploring a local cemetery in my new hometown.Nuts_092715
Alive among the dead, the American chestnut really caught my attention. Once the predominant tree of Eastern forests, they are a rare find today. A fungus nearly killed off the entire species by 1940. In contrast, the ginkgo is an ancient survivor. Native to China, but planted widely in cities, ginkgoes have been on Earth since the days of the dinosaurs. I had never seen the nut before and, as it turns out, for good reason. The female, seed-bearing trees are not planted frequently because of the noxious odor given off when the nut drops to the ground and is crushed. Hickories are widespread in the mid-west and eastern U.S., so they are not hard to come by. The thick husk and hard nut protect an edible seed inside.

This page was done a piece at a time, starting with the chestnuts. I drew them directly in pen on location because the spines were so sharp I could not carry them home. I collected the ginkgo and hickory nuts and sketched them at home. Much of the watercolor was done with a very dry brush to get the detail. I added the text last with a micron 02 pen. (Stillman & Birn Zeta journal)

18 Comments on “Well Protected

  1. Beautiful drawings Jean. Ah, that ginkgo it is a smelly beast. We had them when we lived in MA.
    Never again! Hope you are settling in nicely.

    • I decided not to crush the ginkgo after reading about how hard it is to get the smell off your hands. We’re settling in and my painting space is set up– which feels very good indeed.

    • Thanks– it was a nice surprise to find the gingko and chestnut especially…and now I’ve found a place to go back and sketch trees, too.

    • Thanks Shari– yes, it is nice to have some time and I need to settle into a rhythm again. I finally signed up for your class– and I’ve viewed the first few lessons. Great stuff! I’ve had to take a break due to the move, but I’m eager to get back to it. I’ll post a landscape and include a link sometime soon.

  2. My favorite is the shagbark hickory – you really captured the coloration of the outer shell. So happy to see you thriving in your new area!

  3. I never knew gingkos smelled. Wonderful drawings. I am planning to finally use my Zeta journal next year for a year-long weekly sketch project. So nioce to see your work in it.

  4. Pingback: Well Protected – INDIANA AGROFORESTRY

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