Garry Oak Meadow-Mid-April

Garry Oak Meadow-Mid-April

A friend who knows the oak meadow well, took me to a grove where many checker lilies and fawn lilies grow, alongside several other treasures like prairie star, beautiful bittercress and blue-eyed Mary. The dark checker lilies hid in the dappled shade cast by the bare oak branches until I learned to discern their graceful form. The bright pink bittercress bloomed nearby and drew my eye right away.

I am chronicling the tremendous variety of botanical riches in this rare and endangered ecosystem near the lower Columbia River in Oregon. Once the Willamette Valley and many places along the Columbia River Corridor were characterized by oak savanna. The dappled shade cast by the oaks creates the perfect environment for a wide variety of prairie and woodland plants…a carpet of wildflowers in spring. Most of these oak meadows have been lost to development. This is one of the few left and we are not sure how long it will remain. For more information go here.

Since I have a fondness for checker lilies (Fritillaria affinis), I spent a lot of time sketching them in different positions and stages of bloom. They vary a lot in the number of ‘checkers’ on the petals, and in the arrangement of the leaves. The leaves may be whorled (three or more leaves at a node) or alternate, which gives them a dancing, twirling look. I was happy to find these darkly checkered lilies since the specimen I illustrated before had much more yellow in the petals. I tore myself away from the checker lilies to draw the beautiful, delicate bittercress (Cardamine nuttallii var. nuttallii).

Checker lilies are also called chocolate lilies, and I can see why–that delicious, rich chocolatey color. The light shining through the petals brings out the reddish tones, and makes the yellow/green spots glow. Since Quinacridone Violet turns slightly brown when under-painted with yellow, it worked well for the chocolate lily petals. I added Quinacridone Magenta where the translucency of the petal let more sunlight through, and Perylene Violet in the shaded areas.

Here is my finished study page. I really enjoy the surprises that dissections bring, like when I cut the Fritillaria ovary in half and saw the star shape with the immature seeds in double rows between the points. You can see my scalpel on the upper right–works great!

The weather is warming and now the Camassia meadows are thick with flowers. I’ll try to post more about the meadow soon. Are the native plants of your region blooming yet? If so, what are your favorites?


  1. Angela Cox says

    Lovely, lovely pages Janene. We have Fritillary meleagris here, which are one of my favourites. The New Forest is full of Apple Blossom and the woods nearby are full of Bluebells and birds are singing, it’s so lovely at this time of year.

    • Angela, I am glad that you are enjoying spring–it’s such a hopeful time of year…which we are all in need of right now. I’ve tried growing F. meleagris in my garden but it didn’t last long–such a beautiful plant. I always enjoy photos of the bluebell-filled English woodlands. Best wishes to you!

  2. Beautiful and so delicate!

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