Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Finds in the Late Autumn Woods
At first glance, the woods looks pretty dull this time of year. The wildflower season's long past, the trees are bare, the migrating birds have flown away with their songs, and there's no snow yet to reveal the woodland residents' whereabouts. Ho hum! Nothing of interest, right? Well, actually, there's plenty of neat stuff out there in the woods right now, but you might have to hunt around to find it.
This moss, for example, with its long fern-like runners, can be found on lots of rotting downed trees. But you probably wouldn't notice its delicate structures unless you bent down to peer close, because it's so small.
The same could be said for this dainty green lichen, growing amid the moss.
Because I have very poor eyesight, I never noticed these fruiting stalks growing among the green leafy structures of the lichen, until I took a macro photo and blew it up.
When I saw these brown clumps amid the dead leaves, I assumed at first they were some creature's feces, although I couldn't recall any critter that left piles this blobby in shape.
I reached for a stick to poke the feces apart to see what food remnants were in it, but the stick was attached to more of the same brown blobs. They were hard and woody, with no detectable odor.
Then I looked up, remembering that this was the area where last year I found large blobby galls infesting the Bitternut Hickories. And there they were, dozens and dozens of them, caused by some kind of phomopsis fungus. Not very pretty, but hey, a fascinating find, nevertheless.
Here are some more blobby things that are maybe not so pretty but still kind of fascinating. These are the dried fruits of Wild Cucumber, a pretty but rather pestiferous vine that swarms over roadside shrubbery in late summer.
And here's the insides of one of those fruits, with the external membrane worn off, although the thorns remained intact. So intricate and lacy!
As the sun headed down, it lit up these streamside plants -- yellow willow, green ground cover, and bright Red Osier Dogwood stems -- revealing a landscape as colorful as an Italian flag.