Invisible Willow | Richard G. Tiberius

Invisible Willow  |  Richard G. Tiberius

20 x 25.75 in | 50.8 x 65.4 cm

For years beavers had maintained a series of dams across a riverbed. Because the riverbed was shallow, each dam backed up the water for a hundred meters or more, creating a series of lagoons that resembled wide, shallow stairs. Each time we pulled our canoe over a dam to explore the lagoon above it we had to find a gap in the willows that were growing out of the dam like a thick hedge. I was enjoying the animals—deer, waterfowl, beavers—and not particularly noticing the flora. While returning downstream, scanning the line of willows for a gap, I noticed how extraordinarily colorful they were.

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The twigs displayed a range of color from red through orange, ochre, brown, and purple. To add to the celebration, the twigs held their leaves at playful angles and waved bright greenish-yellow catkins in the wind above them. I wanted to set up an easel in the canoe but I settled for several pictures with my digital camera and waited until I returned home to sketch a composition.

The strange part is that I had canoed this river many times before without noticing them. Stranger still is the fact that the Bebb willow is one of the most common trees in Canada. In fact, a map of their distribution looks a lot like the map of Canada itself if you add Alaska and a little bulge at the bottom to take in some of the northern states. I’m not the only one who has missed this common tree. The Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana) is not a name that I have heard very often. This particular cluster lives in Brown’s creek, off of Buckshot Lake, in Southern Ontario.

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