Friday, 18 December 2015

Seeing Red

 When I woke last Sunday morning and saw the brilliant sunshine I knew I wanted to go for a walk in the woods. Although there was a noticeable absence of predawn gunshots I didn't know for sure that hunting season had ended. But desire trumped reason – I just wanted to go “forest bathing” or Shinrin-yoku" as the Japanese call it. But, feeling I should make at least a nod to caution, I decided to don an orange jacket and scarf.

Late fall seems at first to be monochromatic, especially compared to the brilliance of fall foliage and the spring to autumn parade of kaleidoscopic annual and perennial bloom. Once you accept the limited palette you begin to notice the many subtle variations of green, brown and beige. 
Milkweed seed head

Walking through the fields there was a gorgeous “big sky” - perhaps nothing to compare with Montana's, but beautiful for Ontario; a glowing blue with dark ominous clouds above the northern horizon and a combination of cumulus and cirrus clouds to the east. 
Scylla "home on the range"

It may have been donning my orange jacket, but I first noticed a florescent orange fungus on a fallen tree trunk in the hedgerow. Commonly known as Orange Witch's Butter and scientifically as Dacrymyces palmatus, it is described, accurately I'd say, as looking brain like. 
Dacrymyces palmatus or Orange Witch's Butter

After that I  became aware of the flashes of complementary red – rare but more delightful for their economy in the landscape.

A bright purple bramble stem
 Red osier dogwood growing on the bank of Railway Creek
Once I entered the woods, having been alerted by the Orange Witch's Butter, I started to notice other colourful macrofungi. I did my best to identify them, but offer no guarantees. The site I found most useful was the University of Wisconsin's.
Another orange mushroom, Omphalotus illuden
Omphalotus illuden, known as Jack O' Lantern mushroom

I came across something I couldn't identify on a fallen tree trunk. I'm not even sure if it's a lichen or a fungus….

In the part of the woods dominated by hemlock and yellow birch I came across Ganoderma tsugae, Hemlock polypore which is relatively rare simply because it only grows on hemlocks.
Hemlock polypore Ganoderma tsugae
Another example a few feet along

There was another magnificent fungus, Fomitopsis pinacola, quite gaudy with its distinctive striping. Commonly know as Red-banded Conk, it is characterized by a gray center, outlined by a black band with an outermost red band. 
Fomitopsis pinacola or Red Banded Conk

 Having gotten used to picking out flashes of red I saw a stand of red osier dogwood in the distance. 

Walking further there was an exposed tree root on the path, worn smooth and a warm red colour.

Once I got back home I noticed the brilliant red of the high bush cranberry. There are very few berries this year and I think it must be related to the hard frost we had in May which also reduced the number of wild grapes and apples.
High bush cranberry berries

And there was the brilliant red of the modest, ground-hugging wild strawberries bravely growing in the sharp drainage of the gravel in front of the garage.
Wild Strawberry leaves

The meadow rose that Alex gave us rewarded with both red stems and red hips.
Red rose hips and stems

While there may be some who are seeing red at the lack of snow this Christmas, Nature hasn't forgotten the season. She's just reminding us that the red and green of Christmas are all around us. 


  1. One can not go past here without leaving a smile for your lovely nature's observations.