|Peeling Manzanita, Volcan Mountain|
18x24 Oil on panel
One of the pure pleasures of hiking on Volcan mountain is walking through an extensive tunnel of manzanita at the base of the Five Oaks Trail. Never before I first ventured to Volcan Mountain had I found myself enclosed by a tangled forrest of 10 to 12 foot high manzanitas. Such a pleasure! As long as I can remember I have loved manzanita's satisfyingly smooth bark that seems to glow with an inner light. It's trunks and branches look almost animal, as if there are muscles rippling under the surface of the warm and lusterous surface.
The plants are interesting all year, producing delicate blossoms, berries of multiple colors, and then they do this! Starting around May the trunks and branches start shedding their old bark. As the plants grow, cracks develop and the old bark begins to roll up into tight curlicues. The newly exposed bark is a bright green but transitions within a matter of days into the gorgeous orange, red, purple colors the plants are known for. The color combination lit my art heart on fire, and I felt like giggling when I focused on the curling shapes of the old bark.
Like a snake, the plant sheds the outer skin that has protected it for the year. Tannins make the bark bitter and even toxic to some invasive organisms, and they also give the plant it's distinctive coloring. By November the shedding process is complete, and all the old curled up bark has blackened and fallen away. The new bark has matured into it's luminous reds, oranges and purples and is silky once again.