June 24, 2011
A Walk in the Woods: The Shapes of Leaves
When I go for my walks through the woods adjacent to my home, I spend a lot of my time looking down, paying attention to the shapes and colors and textures of low-growing things: plants, mosses and lichens, fungi. A couple of weeks ago I decided to document some of my favorite leaf shapes, shapes of plants I can't identify except for one. The charming mass of almost cartoonishly bulbous three part leaves above are my favorites, and I look out for them each spring; they simply make me happy.
There is so much variation within a three part pattern, from the first plant to this, and even within the growth pattern of the same plant, as the leaf adds complexity as it grows.
This is bunchberry, a low growing form of dogwood that carpets the path in one area of the woods. The leaves grow by fours or sixes from a perfect center, whorling their points in a circle. The white "petals" of the flowers are actually bracts, a specialized leaf, and the flower is the small round mass at their center.
I also love these leaves, rising from a center, and displaying a kind of corrugated folding which catches the light in vertical and horizontal movements. Last year I tried to watch out for flowers that might emerge from the leaves, but never saw any.
Three leaves attach to the end of a stem, and their edges are serrated so finely that it seems a frothy mass.
This plant rises above the ground. I find its new leaves, softly and delicately folded, with a lighter and cooler color than the older leaves, so poignant. They give a sense of the tender vulnerability of new life, wherever it emerges.