24" x 28"
California, United States
Beauty often lies as much in the context as it does in the main subject. After hiking over miles of powder-dry sand and rocks, when I saw this lone tree, I was struck with how green and lush it was. The leaves seemed to sparkle because they were covered with a bluish-white bloom, an adaptation that helps repel the desert sun. Another adaptation to arid climate is the angle of the stiff little leaves, whose edges are turned up to shed the sun. To create the sparkle effect on the leaves I dabbed on Titanium white using the point of my painting knife.
The Manzanita is well adapted to semi arid regions. The sparse rain that falls in these parts drains off this hilltop rapidly. On the day I passed this spot there wasn’t a trace of cloud in the sky. It had been dry for days and would be so for days to come and the gallon of water I put in my pack at the start of the day’s hike was already half gone.
The name Manzanita, “little apple” in Spanish, describes the fruit. The diminutive apple-like fruit is a very important source of food for birds and other animals. On the trail you can often see their undigested seeds and papery husks in the droppings of Coyotes and Foxes. The fruit was also a significant food source for the native people. The Bigberry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca) painted here is unusually tall, around 20 feet, while most Manzanita species are much shorter. The big size of its berry is relative to other Manzanita fruit. It’s the size of a large blueberry.
Manzanita live in the chaparral of western North American, from southern British Columbia, Canada, through Washington, California, Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, and extend into northern and central Mexico.