While snow still covers the ground in much of our local forest, the explosion of colorful native spring wildflowers still lies in wait. But that doesn't mean we won't find some amazing color out there already. This remarkably yellow Skunk Cabbage spathe is one example. My friend Sue Pierce found a few pure-yellow specimens among the much-more-typical red-streaked ones in a wetland near Glens Falls, which is where I took this photo.
After prowling that wetland, where we found several more Skunk Cabbage spathes displaying this highly unusual color, we next visited another known site for abundant Skunk Cabbage plants, the Orra Phelps Nature Preserve in Wilton, curious to see if any yellow examples were growing there.
But no. We found no pure-yellow spathes among the hundreds of deep-red Skunk Cabbage plants at Orra Phelps.
But we sure did find a lot of other pure-yellow flowers there! Hundreds and hundreds of them, carpeting the ground in what was either an old walled garden or the floor of an old cellar hole.
These were not a native wildflower, though. These were the aptly named Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), a Eurasian import loved by American gardeners for its extremely early bloom time, often opening canary-yellow blooms right through the melting snow cover.
This abundant patch of Winter Aconite shared its sun-warmed soil with another aptly-named garden flower called Snowdrops (Galanthus sp.), another import cherished by gardeners for its very early appearance in the spring.
Some of the Winter Aconite blooms were still surrounded by snow!
Many more colorful finds awaited us as we made our way through the woods. This fallen tree limb speckled with bright-red fungus certainly caught our eye! We recognized the fungus as Red Tree Brain (Peniophora rufa), and we were surprised how it had retained its color throughout the winter. That alerted us to start searching other fallen logs for more examples of persisting color.
And we were not disappointed! What a marvelous mix of fungi, lichens, moss, and liverworts, all sharing the same stretch of rotting wood! And all just as colorful as when we had first seen them months ago.
The Red Tree Brain fungus was underlaid by a carpet of ruddy-brown Frullania liverwort, surmounted by lime-green tufts of Bristle Moss and ornamented by several pale-green and orange-yellow lichens.
This gray-green patch of Rosette lichen was dotted with hundreds of its fruiting bodies.
Two tiny red disks (species unknown) shared space with a cluster of Yellow Poplar Sunburst lichen.
How gorgeous was this combination of bright-red Tree Brain Fungus and spring-green Bristle Moss, ornamented with sparkling crystals of ice!
These leathery patches of Wrinkled Crust fungus (Phlebia radiata) had actually deepened in color over the winter, from the paler salmon-pink they were last fall to the deep Morocco-leather red they are now.
These persisting caps of Violet Tooth Polypore (Trichaptum biforme) did fade over the winter, losing the purple rim that makes them immediately recognizable when fresh. Now a more neutral tan, they could be one of several different look-alike shelf fungi. Until we turn them over to see the undersides.
The pore surface of Violet Tooth Polypore is quite distinctive, even in late winter. The cinnamon-brown color is one distinction, as are the now-exploded pores that have assumed a maze-like appearance.
Before we left Orra Phelps Nature Preserve, we made sure to visit one of our favorite liverworts, this lime-green Handsome Woollywort (Trichocolea tomentella) that covers several small boulders in a swale. This species stands out from other liverworts because of its unusually fluffy appearance, the trait that no doubt helped to suggest its delightful vernacular name. And like all liverworts, we can find it just as freshly colorful at the end of winter as it was before winter began.
One last colorful treat surprised us as we headed toward our cars. A stray sunbeam lit up the vivid translucence of this Orange Jelly Fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus [alternately, chrysospermus]) to give us one more jolt of joy on this outing otherwise filled with many jolts of amazing color. The green fringe of Intermediate Fern pinnae perfectly framed the fungus's beauty.
Beautiful! Hail Spring!
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