The Return of Texas Wildflowers (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

The Return of Texas Wildflowers (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

30 inches (76.2 cm) wide by 28 inches (71.1 cm) high

My favorite subjects are plants and animals in their original habitats, growing and living as they did before people changed their environment.  But often these original habitats are difficult to find.  Sun-loving wildflowers like these used to grow in open prairies.  The prairies were kept open by millions of Bison who stomped and chomped the trees.  Before Europeans arrived in America, Bison ranged throughout most of the middle States including all of Texas except its very southern tip.  Later, when the Bison were nearly wiped out, the trees started to grow back.  Also, farmers plowed and sowed the land with grass for cattle and horses.  As a result sun loving prairie flowers receded.

When I visited central Texas recently I discovered that some landowners have kept their fields free of trees but have not cultivated the fields.  In these fields the wildflowers have returned.  I was delighted to see that these domestic fields offer a window into the early Texas prairie environment.

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The main flowers in this painting are all Texas species: The blue flowers are Texas Blue Bonnets (Lupinus texensis); the orange-red flowers are Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa), and the yellow flowers are Texas False Dandelion (Pyrrhopappus multicaulis).  However, the grasses are probably not the original prairie grasses.  I suspect that the early European settlers planted cultivated, European grasses.  The original prairie grasses were taller and tougher.  The woods at the edge of the field included a mixture of species, dominated by Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoids).

Notice how the colors of the trees and flowers shift toward the blue end of the spectrum in the very distant field.  The distant flowers are really the same color as those in the foreground but they appear pink and violet instead of orange and blue because the blue light rays of the sun, being shorter than the yellow and red rays, are scattered by the atmosphere, creating a blue haze which affects all the colors.

 

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