Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Smoke, but no fire

Currently in Iowa, it's hotter than Hades. Close to the 100° mark. Not much fun being outside. But I hate feeling pent-up inside all day. Walking through the woods in the cool of the evening is a pleasant option, much better than a noon jaunt. Under a canapy of oaks, there is a significant reprieve from heat.

On such a recent walk, I wasn't expecting to see anything new blooming in Hickory Hill park, but to my surprise I spied a stand of Indian Pipe. Maybe it was the slanted golden evening light that highlighted the grouping. But there they were.

Indian Pipe is one of several common names for this plant. It is also called Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant, all three names quite descriptive. Pale and ghostly, the plants themselves are such oddities. I've illustrated them before (as part of the foreground to a spread in the Woodlands book) but I used photo reference in the rendering. I was excited to see them in person, like finally meeting a friend face-to-face. Although Indian Pipe look like fungi, they are not. They don't produce chlorophyll like most plants however, thus their white palid, anemic and delicate look. They apparently grab nutrients from decaying material surrounding them.  Since these disconcerning warmer temps make me worry about nature in general, to be reminded of how simply observing something new in nature refreshes, it makes me re-commit to advocating enviromental awareness for young people. So, it's take a kid on a walk in the woods week, even if that kid is 14 (or 40 or 80) years old! Even if it's a bit warm out. And keep your eye out for Indian Pipe.

This is the illustration from the Woodlands Counting Book, the 11 Indigo Bunting page.
Indian pipe can be seen in the very foreground of the piece,
sticking up right up from the edge

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