Today dense stands of Arundinaria gigantea known as canebrakes are found only in small patches, though they were once widespread across the South, particularly along streams and in river floodplains. Chroniclers of the presettlement landscape, such as William Bartram, spoke of the nearly impenetrable barriers they formed, sometimes miles in extent. These massive canebrakes may have been the result of agricultural abandonment by a disease-stricken Indian population, as well as frequent fire. Extensive canebrakes began to decline as cattle overgrazed them (cane was ideal forage in the open range of the frontier), and, in an attempt to stimulate new young growth, settlers burned them too frequently. It was well known on the frontier that cane grew where the soil was richest, so those places were rapidly converted to cropland. Row cropping, particularly of cotton, dealt the deathblow to the great brakes.
In this early morning scene, I’ve imagined a landscape where beaver activity is impacting a lowland canebrake. For many centuries before Europeans arrived, beavers, cane, and Indian agriculture, played an ever-changing and interdependent role in shaping Southeastern stream valleys.
Studio painting – March.
Lost Species, Visions of Landscapes Past
September 15 – December 9, 2011
The Georgia Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia Campus
The Southern Frontier, Landscapes Inspired by Bartram’s Travels
January 28 - May 8, 2011
May 28 - Aug 14, 2011
Morris Museum of Art
Searching for Bartram’s Wilderness: Studies from the Field
Sept 24 - Oct 16, 2010
Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation
A Pleasant Territory: Grasslands in the Southeast
March 2 - 27, 2009
Circle Gallery, G14 Caldwell Hall
College of Environment and Design, UGA, Athens, Georgia
Philip Juras: The Southern Frontier, Landscapes Inspired by Bartram’s “Travels”
Published in conjunction with Philip’s 2011 exhibition at the Telfair Museum, Savannah, Georgia. With essays by Philip Juras, Dorinda Dallmeyer, Holly Koons McCullough – poem by Janisse Ray – foreword by Steven High. Winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award (Specialty Book Category) from the Georgia Writers Association, 2012. Published by Telfair Books, 2011. Second printing (paperback) published by the University of Georgia Press, 2015.