Nature surrounds us. There it is, making the most of whatever soil and space it can eke out of human encroachment. Birds, plants, trees, wildlife, insects find a way. For instance, when the ditches alongside roadways fill with water, it’s common to see egret spotting insects and snails among the elegant stalks of arrowhead flowers and grasses.
Florida has managed to preserve some areas from development, though. Brooker Creek Preserve, spanning Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough Counties, is just such a treasured place, where arched branches of live oaks form a vast cathedral through which sunlight casts its sacred light over swamp, hammock, and flatwoods. I come to Brooker Creek Preserve to center and take notice. Every visit exposes a new discovery where even the most commonplace “weeds” reveal themselves as precious.
It was during a guided walk with one of the Brooker Creek Preserve staff, Barb Hoffman, that I was particularly struck by how the silver-grey tillandsia glowed bright red when illuminated by sunlight. These spiky, curly plants cling to trees, rooted not in soil but air. And the trees are bedecked by blooms of red Christmas lichen (among other varieties).
In my ignorance, I thought these plants to be parasitic, but my guide explained that this is a myth. In fact, lichen are beneficial to fungi, serving them nutrients and a habitat. Lichen are sensitive to air pollutants and are used by climate scientists as a key indicator of air quality. These delicate epiphytes are so lucky to be able to hug trees and commune with the arboreal commonwealth.
I am currently up to my inky fingers in celebration of these woodland gems. Three of my prints are on display at Brooker Creek Preserve from May 15 – July 26, 2023.
Shown here: “Rooted on air,” Relief, drypoint, monoprint, 2023; Akua intaglio on Rives BFK; 18″x18″