Savanna Morning Fog

Somme Prairie Grove, Cook County, Illinois
Oil on canvas
24 x 42 in. (61 x 106.7 cm)

Private collection

My reward for arriving at Somme Prairie Grove before sunrise on August 18, 2022 was the chance to wander through a dream-like landscape of misty groves and openings, all suffused with the colors of dawn. It was magical. Drops of condensation on the dew-laden flora highlighted a field of jewels. Moving through the tall herbage, I was quickly soaked.

Somme Prairie Grove was dedicated as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 2021 while the adjacent Somme Prairie had been dedicated in 1984. Formerly a badly tattered tallgrass savanna remnant, Somme Prairie Grove has been transformed into a rare treasure by 40 plus years of mostly volunteer efforts. Even rarer than unplowed prairie, ecologically intact tallgrass savannas are virtually gone. Restoration is the way to bring them back and it’s essential to do so. Among the scattered oaks, savanna diversity could exceed that of adjacent prairies and woodlands, as they drew species from both, while specializing in more of their own.

Herbaceous species represented (or suggested) in this view include the flowers, seed heads, or leaves of rattlesnake master, lead plant, round headed bush clover, slender mountain mint, wild quinine, rough blazing star, early goldenrod, compass plant, purple prairie clover, prairie dropseed, and big bluestem. Bur oak, scarlet oak, and hazel vie for space among these prairie and savanna herbs.

Studio painting, completed April 2023.

Note. The story of Somme Prairie Grove’s restoration can found on the Vestal Grove blog and also in the book Miracle Under the Oaks.

Exhibition History