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Blackjack Oaks and an Oklahoma Sunset


Like most places in the United States, Oklahoma has a varied landscape, but from my years living in the central part of the state, I remember it best for the strong winds that never seemed to stop blowing dust across wide open expanses of hard, red clay dotted with occasional short, scrubby vegetation, not the least of which is the Blackjack Oak tree (Quercus marilandica).

The Blackjack Oak is, to me, an iconic symbol of the hardscrabble existence of some of Oklahoma’s native vegetation as it grapples with the state’s weather extremes (the temperatures vary from below 0 degrees F in winter to 100F in summer) and the exposure of the open plains. Its bark is black, its wood hard and gnarly. It is considered of little commercial value but is used occasionally for rough construction, railroad ties and fuel. The tree is shorter than most oaks and scrubby; while living in Oklahoma, I remember visitors joking about the looks of our “head-high trees”.

You may be thinking at this point that Oklahoma is not my favorite place, and you are right. But it does have its hidden gems, the most notable being the “black gold” that runs beneath the ground, the other, and less celebrated, are its remarkable sunsets. With numerous lakes and long views in most of the state unobstructed by hills or mountains, Oklahoma has some photo-worthy sunsets at all times of year.

This past weekend while visiting family and friends, I was lucky enough to be there as the sun was setting over Fort Gibson Lake in the eastern part of the state. With only my iPhone to prove how pretty it was, I snapped away, hoping to capture at least some of its colors.

In the foreground of the above (and 1st two) photos are the branches of a Blackjack Oak. Beneath it were rocks and clay and to one side of it a blacktop parking lot. But there it stood healthy and strong, while I shivered in the ever-present night-time wind, its gnarled black branches looking like knuckles of hard-working hands, striking a contrast against the warm orange, red and pink tones of the sun setting over the lake. At the risk of sounding completely sentimental and corny, I will tell you that, assisted by the gorgeous sunset, for the first time I saw a little beauty in the Blackjack Oak.

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Most interesting blog.
We dont really know enough about the weather conditions in America.
Thank you Ivyclad.

23 Jan, 2013


Thank you, Diane!

23 Jan, 2013


Wonderful photos, I enjoyed them ... and interesting to hear about Oklahoma and the Blackjack oak.
I had a cousin who went to live in Oklahoma for a while. He said it was very hot there.
I like flat places. There are too many hills in Wales ...

23 Jan, 2013


Interesting to hear from different parts of the world like Oklahoma. I love that first picture of the setting sun behind those writhing twigs on the Blackjack Oak. The harsh climate makes the shapes I suppose. We are having a bout of frost and snow here, which makes rail and road travel difficult, as we are not geared to severe winters that go on for day sand days of snow. Your house looks very pretty. Does it have a large garden Ivy clad?

23 Jan, 2013


Your photos are beautiful, sunsets are stunning, thank you for putting them on here.

23 Jan, 2013


Hello all, thank you for your kind comments.

Hywel, it *is* very hot in summer. Last summer, Oklahoma experienced temps above 100F for weeks.

Dorjac, I'm sure Oklahomans wouldn't mind sharing a bit of your snow. Thank you about my house. It is in a suburban neighborhood on 1/4 acre lot, so the garden is small. However, my husband and I are in the process of creating a "city" garden behind the house this winter and spring. Though it will not be mature by this summer, I hope to have photos to share by May or June. The Homeowner Association for our subdivision regulates front gardens to lush lawns and border plantings around the house, but we can do pretty much what we like in the back.

Stickitoffee, Thank you. I live several hours north and east of where these photos were taken where there is less sun this time of year, so it was refreshing to me to see the bright sun also.

23 Jan, 2013


All I know about Oklahoma is the famous musical lyrics.
Very jolly. Sooner have Ivyclad's version.

23 Jan, 2013


I love hills! The Oak looks so beautiful in silhouette. Lovely photos.

23 Jan, 2013


Gorgeous sunsets and I love the ones with the trees, thankyou for sharing with us...

24 Jan, 2013


I allways marvel when I see American suburbia films how there are no fences, hedges, and other demarcation devices at the front of most houses on the films. It makes for a park like appearance. I am so surprised it is regulated as to what you can plant out front.

25 Jan, 2013


Diane, jolly indeed! The lyrics to the old musical "Oklahoma" are reflective of they way modern-day Oklahomans feel about their state. They are very proud of it!

Steragram, thank you! I love hills, too. The flat land is one thing I don't miss too much about Oklahoma.

Lincslass, Thanks very much! I was glad to capture the brightness of the sunset only having my phone with me.

Dorjac, regulations on front yards are not necessarily the norm. It is more common in small communities of homes where the building committee wants extra insurance on a uniform look from the street. However, I think it is safe to say that most Americans regard wide open front lawns with small borders near the house as the norm, so what you see in films *is* what you will commonly see in suburban neighborhoods. This is easy to care for (20 minutes of mowing and trimming once a week in growing season) and suits the typical American who does not spend much time gardening. On the other hand, we Americans admire our friends across the pond who, to our way of thinking, ALL have beautiful gardens. One of the best compliments I've ever received from a neighbor was when she said my planting attempts looked like "a perfect English garden". :)

27 Jan, 2013


I look forward to seeing pictures your walled garden when you manage to get this done. On a recent Escape to the Country programme on TV here, the husband wanted a walled garden to grow veggies. They were shown round a recent build ultra modern 'eco house', built in a walled garden. He liked the house but she was not keen......bit of a problem. It cost over 1 million pounds!! Not as pretty as your house. They were moving back to UK from Switzerland.

27 Jan, 2013

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