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By the River

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It's autumn in the latest Cretaceous somewhere in North America's coastal plains, and the riverside forests are in their best fall colours. A Troodon is inspecting it's territory. The first fall floods have turned the rivers muddy and washed off most of the floating vegetation that covers the surface during summers.

From Late Cretaceous into well in the Eocene there was a distinct community of plants in disturbed sites - such as empty river channels, collapsed riverbanks, and wildfire sites in many parts of the world. The community consisted of some combination of Ginkgoes, katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum), dawn cypress (Metasequoia), sycamore (Platanus), and delta cypress (Glyptostrobus). All of these except for sycamore are shown here, along with aquatic angiosperm Trapago angulata and dipteridaceaen fern Hausmannia and a bunch of other plants.

Unlike the weedy plant communities of today's disturbed areas, all of these trees live to be very, very old. And one thing you don't see often enough in paleoart is that old trees may look pretty weird. Ginkgoes, for example, have a habit of sprouting weird aerial root-like growths called chi chi (which is apparently Japanese for breasts). When they touch the ground, they sprout roots and start acting as a holdfast for new trunks.

Interestingly, while deciduous plants were a minority during the Cretaceous, at least all modern congenerics of the Ginkgo community shed their leaves and have rather flashy autumn colours. It makes me imagine a pterosaur-eye view of monotonically dark green, ancient coniferous forests suddenly splashed with eye-hurtingly bright yellows and reds here and there.

This one has to do with my next Botany of Paleoartists blog posts, coming as soon as I'm less busy with work again. Also, prints available!

Black markers on a sketchbook page and Photoshop.
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The world was so alien back then.......