What a disappointment our autumn foliage in Saratoga County has been this year! Due to a huge infestation of leaf-devouring Gypsy Moth larvae this summer, accompanied by unrelenting rains and wilting heat waves, many of the tree leaves have suffered both insect damage and fungal disease. So instead of going out in their customary blaze of glory, most of our leaves are brown and shriveled and spotty, and many have already fallen, even though we haven't yet had a killing frost. Even our sumacs have failed us. Especially the species called Shining Sumac, which I used to depend on for truly eye-popping scarlet brilliance along the powerline that runs just north of Mud Pond at Moreau Lake State Park. When I stopped there this past week, only a few shriveled leaves remained on the sumac twigs. So instead of looking above my head for autumn beauty, I looked down instead, finding what beauty lay underfoot along the deeply moss-cushioned clearcut under the powerlines.
Here's an even deeper-scarlet patch of Sphagnum, sharing its turf with some velvety green Broom Moss, some shaggy stems of Big Red Moss, and a couple of Tree Club Mosses, one of them bearing spikes of golden spores.
Here's a closer look at that deep-red Sphagnum, revealing the whitish tips that give this moss a frosted appearance.
Here's a different clubmoss, called Fan Clubmoss, looking like tiny White Cedar trees set in a starry meadow of Haircap Moss.
This pale-yellow mushroom glowed like a full moon against a dark background of Haircap Moss.
And this mass of Turkey Tail fungus proved that if you can't find beautiful colors in the trees, come look for this colorful species of fungus, displaying shades of blue and green and gold and rust and ivory.
Finally! Here was a baby Red Maple displaying the scarlet brilliance its species is famous for, only in miniature. And even these tender new leaves were marred with the signs of insect damage and fungal disease that has made our autumn foliage such a disappointment this year. Let's hope next fall will be better!