October 30, 2013

A Walk in the Woods: Still Green

My lawn is still bright green, not yet faded into its winter drab, but in the woods it is almost all dull browns and grays, the dun of late fall. The brightly colored leaves that fell on the path have lost their color and are now curled and dry. But here and there are bursts of green, rising gleaming, ongoing life amid death. Here is a bouquet of plantain-leaf sedge...

....and here another circle of green amid brown, a grass or a sedge. I love how the green seems more vibrant, and the leaves happily disheveled, in contrast with the surrounding dried leaves.

Some ferns stay green all winter, peaking their color through snow.

The richest greens of the woods now come from mosses, growing on the ground, on wood, on rocks.

A beautiful white rock, probably quartzite, with its covering of glittering moss, looks like a gift hidden on the woodland path.

The plants in the woods that seem happiest right now are the clubmosses, a group of plants that have been classified as "fern allies", like ferns using spores to reproduce. I believe the clubmoss above is running cedar clubmoss; as you can see, it sends out runners above ground.

Here is a beautiful, almost frothy looking clubmoss, looking very perky as it catches the light. Or is it a spike moss, another fern ally?....

....which these plants may be. At their tops you can see the "candles", which contain spores. These small green spires spread across areas of the forest floor, looking like a miniature Christmas tree farm.

These sweeps of green, low growing and vivid, join with the evergreen conifers to remind us that there is life in the seemingly dead earth.


  1. Nice! Third from the end, and also the last one, are true mosses -- they are haircap mosses, genus Polytrichum (many-haired) -- the spore capsules have hairy little covers. They are big for mosses, and have what's almost a vascular system. And the unbranched clubmoss is likely the one called Bristly Clubmoss. Or Interrrupted -- it has a little constriction where the annual growth stopped and started. I love the forest floor this time of year.

    1. Thank you, Susan, for your always helpful identifications. Just when I thought I understood clubmosses, I find out that some of them are actually mosses! Plant life is diverse and confusing and wonderful.

  2. We have the club mosses in our woods-very pretty!!! Had no idea all the ferns started this-but the ferns are beautiful-I should-of guess!!