planted around them in White Spruce, leaving the Maples to begin their own grove in the centre - which they did. Now slim young Maples complete the canopy of sun-dappled green.
The tangle of branches at the foot of this tree are from a neighbour that fell, perhaps in the 1998 ice storm. Brush in hand, I glance up from my palette at a slight movement along one of the fungus-blackened fallen limbs and it's a Chipmunk, pausing between broken ends to make some adjustment in the contents of its cheek pouches, but when it notices me reaching for my camera, it's off with a squeak, under, over, and away. I have an image in my mind, which I will paint right - here!
The tree is massive, and I feel inspired. As I apply big strokes in a race with the advancing sunset and the gathering mosquitoes, Fred explores, finding scattered patches of Viola pubescens past flowering, and a few scattered patches of Trout Lily leaves. We passed through one patch of Enchanter's Nightshade at the edge of the Spruces today, and last time we were here Fred found a tiny patch of Spring Beauty in bloom, but all the distinctive spring ephemerals of Sugar Maple woods are missing - Bloodroot, Trillium, Hepatica, Wild Ginger, Cohosh, Dutchman's Breeches, the list goes on and on. It takes more than old trees to make a mature forest! There is plenty of fallen wood and rotting logs, with a diversity of little mushrooms and bracket fungi, food for the grey Arion slugs that we haven't identified yet - but most of the forest floor is a thin layer of last fall's leaves. The forest is waiting for its floor to fill in with understory shrubs and herbs. The next time we visit, we will bring some local Wild Leeks as a contribution to forest floor biodiversity.