The Skidmore Woods is remarkable for its limestone substrate, which provides a rich habitat for an amazing variety of rare and beautiful wildflowers. Of course, no wildflowers are blooming now, but the rocks that leach their minerals into the soil are evident throughout the woods, their pitted surfaces covered with velvety green mosses.
Some of those rocks are a most remarkable blue.
Today I came upon a fallen log that appeared to be covered with velvet of a most remarkable red.
Closer inspection revealed that that red velvet was composed of what looked like tiny dreadlocks, the plaited leaves of a liverwort called Nowellia curvifolia.
Sharing the same log was a nice cluster of a lovely moss with a flower-like shape, possibly the moss called Mnium hornum. Those ruddy threads arising from the center of each moss stalk are most likely the immature spore stalks.
This time of year, one does get greedy to find any traces of color in the woods, which perhaps explains how I happened to spy this tiny dot of orange at the base of a rotting tree.
With my bare eyes, I could not really see this cluster of cottony orange balls resting in tiny cups, so I tried a number of macro shots with my camera, then blew up the image to see it better. The photo's not quite in focus, but it gave me enough information to recognize it as similar to a slime mold pictured in one of my books, Hemitrichia clavata. These little puffs would be the fruitbodies (sporangia) of what my book calls a "common and widespread" slime mold. Widespread and common it may be, but I had never seen it before. And who would think to look for fruiting bodies of any kind in the very dead of winter? Those empty cups on the lower left and the yellow dust beneath seem to indicate that some spores have already been spilled.
Here are some of the brightest spots of color I found in the woods today, two girls and a boy, the 8-yer-old triplet children of their mother pictured here, too. They were coming along the trail while I was crawling around in the woods and, curious as to what I was doing, they gathered close while I showed them my photos of what I had found. I just love how excited kids can be when they experience cool stuff in the woods. As they scampered off to see if they could find that orange slime mold for themselves, I sent my blessings with them.