Garry Oak Meadow–Autumn

Garry Oak Meadow–Autumn

In autumn the shape of the land and the silhouette of the trees become evident since the distraction of summer’s lush greenery is gone.

The old wagon trail draws the eye over the hillocks, and the craggy branches of the oak trees stand out against the sky.
The rainy season has begun, and the vernal streams in the meadow are beginning to flow. The mosses are becoming soft and green again.
Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) carpet the woodland floor. This fern spreads by branch-like rhizomes, which really do have a licorice flavor…I tried one!
Licorice fern are dormant in summer but become lush in winter when so much else is dry and brown.
Flocks of birds were feasting on the bright orange berries of this Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii) tree on my last visit. The canopy was way too high for me to reach leaves and berries to draw but I did enjoy gazing at the sinuous trunk with pealing bark.
I dissected one of the Nootka rose hips to see the seeds nestled inside. I was surprised to see that the seeds are covered with fine, silky hairs. I love those long, elegant sepals!
In this study page, clockwise, I sketched licorice fern, with its rhizomes that creep along the ground or sometimes on the branches of trees. A leaf from a vine maple dangles at the top of the page. Their autumn color glows on the edge of the woodland. Nootka rose (Rosa nootkana) hips turn bright orange and red in autumn as well.
At the bottom of the page is one of the most common native plants of the woodland, poison oak. The leaves are variable but usually resemble the leaves of Garry oak trees, which almost always grow nearby. Poison oak turns a beautiful red color in autumn, then loses its leaves. Even brushing against the bare twigs can cause a terrible, painful rash that can last as long as two weeks. I carefully try to avoid touching any part of this plant but even so, it is almost impossible not to brush against it when I am exploring the wooded areas. A friend recommended washing with Technu to get the irritating oil off my skin, gear and clothes and thankfully so far it has worked really well. Remember, if you see “leaves of three, let it be”!

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. Most of these 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. Thank you for joining me on this journey. More to come soon.


  1. Angela Cox says

    Your pages are as beautifull and elegant as ever. There is always such a wealth of interesting seeds and berries to paint in the autumn. Do you have fungi in your area? The New Forest where I live has masses at the moment and one of my favourites are the Fly Agaric

    • When I visited the meadow and woodlands that I am studying, I didn’t notice any mushrooms but I probably did not know where too look. I tend to stay on the outskirts of the woods because of the heavy growth of poison oak under the trees. We do have interesting mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest but as far as I know, none as stunning as the Fly Agaric! You are so fortunate to live near New Forest where you can observe such natural wonders. Thanks for your comment, Angela!

  2. The Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society (GOMPS) formed in 1992 because local citizens were concerned that native Garry oak woodlands and meadows were rapidly disappearing as a result of expanding human habitation in the Capital Regional District. The society is dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of Garry oak stands and their natural habitats. We are a BC registered society

  3. As always, I so enjoy seeing your illustrations. I was fascinated to learn about Licorice Ferns. I don’t think we have them here in Pennsylvania, but am going to look it up. It’s a wonderful thing that you are, in your own way, preserving this endangered area.

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