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Native from southwestern Oregon to Baja California. From the Audobon guide: “The whorls of many knobby, closed cones help identify this species. Since the cones may become imbedded within the wood of the expanding, trunk, this species has been called ‘The tree that swallows its cones.’ When fires kill the trees, cones as much as 30 years old are opened by the heat and shed their seeds. The abundant seedlings then begin a new forest.”

Still not done with the cross-section, but here’s a more distant view of some needles of a different species.

I’m enjoying the microscopic view of a Pinus nigra needle, but after several days immersed in it I heard the sweet, seductive song of this leaf, whose photo I snapped on our back deck on Saturday. It is probably from the x Chitalpa tashkentensis (hybrid of a desert willow and catalpa) that lives in our backyard and is shedding dry, brown leaves on the deck, stairs, and ground. I loved the spiral curl it had made as it lost its moisture.

A few days ago, I thought it would be exciting to see what a pine needle looks like under a microscope, and found some gorgeous photos of Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) needles, in cross section, from the lab of a Czech scientist named Josef Reischig. (His authorship heirs donated 384 pictures under CC BY SA 3.0 license as a part of Wikimedia Czech Republic‘s GLAM initiative.) Today is Pinus nigra’s day, so I began drawing. But my self-imposed rule of drawing a leaf a day has met its match; I’ve spent all the time I can manage and am far, far from being done with this one. That’s okay. Rules are made to be reconsidered, especially self-imposed ones. So here is the drawing so far.

If you care to see the reference photo, it is here.

Update from January 14:

Update from January 15:

Update from January 16:

Update from January 17:

Update from January 19:

Update from January 21:

When I decided to draw a leaf every day, I had a particular kind of leaf in mind. A particular class of leaf, anyway: broad leaves. Some would be compound, sure, but I’d basically be drawing A leaf or A FEW leaves. Then I opened up the field guide and it began with needle-leaved trees. Drat. Not what I had envisioned myself doing. I mean, how interesting is just one pine needle? So I was suddenly having to draw whole clusters of needles, with their hopelessly complex and irregular negative space. This seemed harder, somehow, than what I had planned on. More than I’d bargained for.

Well, some days I have drawn just one needle up close, or a few, like today, and wait ’til you see what I’m going to do tomorrow, but more often, with needles, it’s going to be a whole twigful, or more. And I know this is a good lesson, and I am glad that it is where the book started, and not just because, as I comforted myself at first, it meant I’d get the hardest ones out of the way by spring. The lesson is one I learn over and over when drawing: that what looks easy at first turns out to be surprisingly difficult, or if not more difficult than I’d imagined, definitely different. Once I look closely, the project isn’t at all what I’d planned. I’m sure broad leaves will also have surprises for me. In fact, I’ll be astonished if they don’t surprise me every day.

There’s always more there than I expect to see, and the more I draw, the more I notice to draw. It’s never easy. It’s always an adventure.

This one has a sweet 🙂 association for me: when we go to Bass Lake for our church’s family camp weekend, as often as not my daughter and I have the cabin called Sugar Pine.

I kept my marks light in anticipation of adding color, but it took a long time just to draw it with the graphite, so that was enough. I think for tomorrow’s drawing, in lieu of the next tree I will add the color to this one. It is the most gorgeous light gray-green, and the colors in the photo make it look even more like a sea anemone than it does here.

According to the Audobon guide, “Unlike most pines, this species often produces new shoots or sprouts from cut stumps.” The less typical variety, var. chihuahuana, is the one native to California. I think that must be the one pictured here, because it has three needles in each bundle, whereas the variety found in Mexico has five.

Trying a very simple outline. It is not easy.

This time the name is not a slur. The range of this species does coincide with a lot of Apache territory; hence the common name. Its scientific name is Pinus engelmannii.

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