You can BET we got bundled up, my Thursday Naturalist friends and myself this week! Thursday brought us another 10-below-zero dawn, although the thermometer did manage to creep up to 6-above by the time our smaller-than-usual group gathered at the Usher's Road State Forest Trail at 10am. You can't see me in this photo, but even if I had been in it, you could not have recognized me, encased to my eyes as I was, in my "walking sleeping-bag" (a shin-length down coat) and with fuzzy scarves wrapping my head. Every pocket held a hand warmer, as much to keep my battery-operated camera alive as to warm my thickly mittened hands.
The Usher's Road State Forest Trail lies a few miles south of Round Lake, and it offers a nearly-two-mile loop trail through forest and wetland remarkable for the presence of many enormous White Pines. We also passed through a Hemlock-dominated section with trees that were almost as large, their branches alive with twittering Chickadees ripping the cones apart to feed on the seeds. Note the scarcity of understory trees, so typical for forests of this age.
These small round galls lined up like little birds perched on a twig were as hard as nuts, so I knew they were not the puffball fungi they resembled before I looked more closely. Each had at least one small round hole in it, which could either have been a larva's exit hole or the entrance hole drilled by the larva's predator.
At least, I usually DO recognize an orchid when I see one! And the pods of this small orchid, each plump oval pod with a withered floral part protruding from the tip, definitely said "Coralroot" to me. Ah, but which species? After showing this photo to two of my orchid-expert friends, I am happy to report that they verified my hunch that these were the winter remains of an Autumn Coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza).