Raptors have a presence in a Pine Rockland Ecosystem. The one depicted here is the tiny South Eastern American Kestrel. The tops of dead trees provide these birds with safe resting places where they can survey their surroundings for prey.
This piece was done using the monotype method, with a combination of painting and stenciling techniques. I went back in with pen and gauche to paint the details of the bird.
An Ecotone is a boundary between two different types of habitats. They are important for the ecosystem because many animals and insects utilize more than one habitat, moving between one and the other. Some plants only exist in the boundary. So, I couldn't make a piece about the Pine Rocklands without including at least ONE other completely different habitat!
This is a photoetching with animals laid over top via chine-cole. I took the photo at the Everglades National Park, where Pine Rocklands and Marl Prairies are naturally occurring right next to each other. Outside of the park, in Miami Dade county, the Pine Rocklands habitats that exist there are fragmented and rarely have much ecotone.
A deer and a marsh rabbit appear in this panel, which is representative of the habitat that exists in the Everglades National Park, but not in other more populated places such as the habitat in Miami Dade County. In the habitat down in the Florida Keys there are Key Deer, which are very tiny.
This tortoise is a keystone species in Florida and other states in the south east, it's burrow being the only home for a variety of ground-dwelling animals including Burrowing Owl, Gopher Frog, Gopher Mouse, and Indigo Snake. Without the tortoise's burrows, many of these animals would go extinct! The left panel features the burrow and a Florida Toad, the endangered Rim Rock Crowned Snake and also endangered Burrowing Owl. The right panel is the Herbaceous Plants panel. The Gopher Tortoise eats it's meals from this layer of plants which includes grasses, gopher apple, cactus and other small plants and flowers.
These two pieces are both monotypes
The Florid Leafwing and Bartram’s Hairstreak Butterflies are both endemic and endangered butterflies native only to the Pine Rocklands. They share a host plant, the Pineland Cronton, which is also endangered due to dwindling and fragmented habitat.
This piece is a monotype with photoetching and some charcoal pencil
Grasses make up a large part of the herbaceous plants in the Pine Rocklands. They play a role in the diets of many critters, and are the main food source of the keystone species, the gopher tortoise.
This is an etching over a monotype
Slash pine is the dominant canopy tree in Pine Rocklands, with flaky bark that looks like scales
This piece is a photo etching and monotype, with micron pen and watercolor
Fire is extremely important to the Pine Rocklands and to many other ecosystems in Florida (and around the world). A fire might naturally occur every 3-5 years in south Florida due to lightning strikes. The event works to trim the under-story keeping medium-sized plants from blocking out the sun for the smaller plants in the herbaceous layer. Fire is so necessary in fact, that many species of plants will only flower or sprout from seed after a fire.
The fires in the Pine Rocklands rarely reach the treetops where they could do permanent damage due to the small amount of fuel and the tallness of slash pine. However, when fires are suppressed by human activity the fuel layer of dead leaves and branches builds up and can lead to massive fires that are devastating to both people and the environment. Therefor, special fire crews now do "controlled burns" to keep the fuel layer from getting out of control while keeping the environment healthy at the same time.
This piece is a photo etching over monotype, with some charcoal and pastel pencil added.
The cleanup crew of nature, Turkey Vultures survey their surroundings from far overhead. Their cleanup service is indispensable to many ecosystems, including the Pine Rocklands.
Among the medium-sized understory plants in the Pine Rocklands the beauty berry makes it's home. In this image two eastern towhee perch on a branch while the beauty berry, with it's edible fruits, sends spindly fruit-laden branches overhead. The fruit can be used to make jam, and is a natural insect repellent when rubbed into the skin. It is loved by birds and wildlife.
Etching with watercolor.
The prickly pear is an understory plant, it's fruit is a dark red, and is a food source for wildlife in the Pine Rocklands. Skippers and scarab beetles also utilize this plant and it's beautiful yellow flowers.
Etching and watercolor
The saw palmetto is the dominant understory plant in the pine rocklands. It's serrated stems with fan-like palms create a knee-high blanket of spiky green under the 20-50 ft tall pine trees. It's flowers are an important food source for many insects, and it's fruit feeds a multitude of animal species. It is Florida's state plant!
Etching with aquatint
The South Florida Pine Rocklands Ecosystem project consists of 14 panels, each representing an important aspect of this particular unique ecosystem.
In the image above, a friend helps me to wipe a plate and prepare it for printing. These pieces were made at the FAU printmaking studio and Raga Press with funding from the Friedland Project Grants.
The project hangs at Nature Preserved at the Cultural Council in Palm Beach with the Viridis Art Collective from November 12 through January 2nd.