Monday, January 28, 2013

The Haunting of Eucalyptus

For forty years now one of the guiding lights of my life has been the five years I spent as a youth in Australia. Perhaps not quite so obvious to those who have never been there, the flora of the land is as unusual and different as the fauna is to most of us who spend our days in North America. Many Californians are, to me, blessed with eucalyptus trees in their midst, but sadly my Boston climate won't sustain them (as I'm reminded on snowy days such as this one).

These trees evolved in an arid world, frequently ravaged by fire. Consequently, the trees developed defense and survival mechanisms that make looking at a hillside of them very different than looking at a hillside of pines or maples. Because of the mortal threat from burning underbrush, they exude an inhospitable chemical that hinders competition "underfoot". Their nuts are rock-hard, sending their seeds to the ground only after the heat of fire threatens the parent tree. For these reasons and more, when you look at a eucalyptus forest, you truly can see the "trees for the forest". Individuals can mark a ridgeline like so many whiskers, can speckle a distant hill like so many sentinels. A forest in Australia is really a sometimes motly and loose collection of very large specimens that seem to have gathered for some sort of sporting event. They are beautiful trees that command attention in all their varieties.

Over the years I've done many paintings of them since their biology fascinates me, and their shapes are alluring all these years later. Here are a few, some from a time when I was a little less skilled than now:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave thoughts or comments for the author