A Vision of Grasslands in the Southeast
Landscapes in Oil by Philip Juras
North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC
April 25th - June 25th
Opening Reception April 25th (after lecture)
There are qualities to be found in natural grassland settings that are unparalleled in the southeastern landscape. In a wide, woodland opening, for instance, the play of light in the fine textures of the ground plane and the unobstructed views of characteristic species make for an inviting and intriguing scene. A view into such an open space also brings into play an appreciation of the lay of the land, the patterns of vegetation, and even the qualities of the sky. In observing these sublime arrangements of nature one begins to perceive the underlying conditions that created these natural settings, conditions such as being at the extreme end of the moisture gradient, or a history of frequent fire. In the Southeast, where fire in particular has been removed from the landscape, the existence of grasslands as a widespread environment has been largely forgotten. In the rare natural remnants where maintaining conditions have persisted, there is an opportunity to glimpse the pre-European Southeast, a territory in which fire was particularly widespread. A traveler, passing through these territories hundreds or even thousands of years ago, would have more often than not enjoyed the pleasant aspect of grasslands as much as of woodlands. Some idea of that presettlement environment can be gleaned from descriptions by early explorers such as Bartram, Lederer, Lawson, Spangenberg, and Byrd. Combining their accounts with an examination of natural remnants begins to paint a picture of the southeastern grasslands explored in this exhibit.