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Translucent Viburnum

20 x 24 in | 50.8 x 61 cm

Someone who enjoys hiking in the woods where these plants grow asked me if the colors were real. He had never seen anything so fantastic in the Northern forest. He wanted to know where and when he could find them.

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The translucent, brightly colored leaves are from a shrub called a Maple-Leaved Viburnum. In the fall, when the green pigment is destroyed by the cold, the leaves lose their green color, and become translucent. Backlighting by the late afternoon sun brought out all the colors—from pale yellow-greens and ochres to brilliant shades of mauve and violet. The colors changed as the light faded. I would have watched them it until the sun went down but I had to get out of the forest before dark.

Maple-Leaved Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) gets both its English and Botanical names from its leaves, which resemble those of the maples (The genus “Acer”). It is actually quite common in dry woodlands, including most of the Northern forests from Quebec to Minnesota and South to the New England States, and the Appalachian Mountains as far south as Georgia. The one I painted was on a ridge beside a moraine in a birch, maple, and beech forest North of Mackie Lake in Southern Ontario.

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