Forest Floor in Winter: Sans Snow – Part I – COLOR!

I let the dog out at 4:15am and it appears we got a dusting overnight.  Yesterday I spent over 2 hours in the woods sans snow and took around 120 photos… enough to last for a handful of posts, anyway.  When my daughter reviewed them with me, she asked, “How can you find so much color at this time of year?”  So I guess I’ll start with the colorful collection…

More fungi, of course:

FungiTurkey Tail Fungus (Trametes versicolor) is very abundant in the woods.  It lives on dead or nearly dead trees, helping to break down the wood and return the nutrients to the soil.  People don’t eat Turkey Tail even though it is non-poisonous because it is leathery and not very appetizing.  That doesn’t seem to stop gray squirrels, box turtles, beetles, slugs, pillbugs, or gnats.

As the Latin name suggests, this fungus can be many different colors… tan, brown, green, maroon, orange, or blue.  The orange ones really caught my eye yesterday!

Orange Bracket Fungus

Orange Fungus on LogI also found this strange orange fungus.  I haven’t looked it up yet…  Isn’t it unusual?


Just as I entered the woods, I saw a flash of red.  I assumed Partridgeberry.  But no…  I’m not sure what this is, and it’s not that great a photo for ID.  Any guesses?

Wintergreen or Teaberry... Thanks to readers for help with ID!

PartridgeberryNow this is Partidgeberry (Mitchella repens) and as I got a little deeper into the woods, there was plenty of it!  Partridgeberries are edible, but tasteless… so you might as well leave them for the deer and the birds.  It is reported that a tea from the leaves of this plant was used by native Americans in the last few weeks of pregnancy to aid with the birth.  This accounts for another common name: Squawvine.  I read that here:  <click>

Colorful LeafletLeaves:

Finally, I leave you with a leaf.  I don’t know what kind it is.  I loved the colors!

Tomorrow:  patterns…

15 thoughts on “Forest Floor in Winter: Sans Snow – Part I – COLOR!

  1. Those are some great pictures! I find myself in search of anything colorful on my treks into the woods too. I am just starting to try to identify fungi. I have a picture of one posted on my blog, with a question to anyone as to what kind it may be? Do you have any idea? Also, what is the name of the book you use to identify such things?

  2. Can’t help with any IDs, but the colour is nice. The leaves on the partridgeberry look very fresh indeed! I haven’t been in the woods for a while as I usually walk riverbank trails. Once the ground firms up a little, I will try the bush.

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I’m glad you were able to get out into the woods for more pictures to share with us. Your posts always remind me to be more observant when I’m out in the woods too!

  4. Nice photos! Sarah & I were out hiking yesterday and saw over a dozen different mushrooms trailside. ‘Tis the season – too bad I don’t know and am too chicken to toy with figuring which are edible. We saw a great many Turkey Tails as well.

  5. Very pretty colorful stuff! You have me looking for fungi now too, but I’m not finding much at all here. Most is under the snow.

  6. Beautiful photos. On the unidentified plant, I’m guessing Gaultheria procumbens (Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry, Boxberry or American Wintergreen). A Google search under wintergreen will turn up several sites with photos similar to yours and there is more material on Wikipedia.

  7. Even though we haven’t had a lot of snow, everything does seem gray outside, so thanks for all the color. As for the mystery berry, we don’t have canella berries around here, do we?

  8. Even at this time of year, there is color to be found, as you so nicely demonstrate.

    I would second the motion that the mystery berry is Wintergreen — those learther- like,polished leaves,plus red berry shout Ericaceae.

    Nice to see such characteristic T. versicolor in the orange version. There are some lovely green examples in some other blogs.

  9. O yes, almost forgot — a bite of that mealy mystery berry, and even the leaves, should impart the characteristic and unmistakable flavor of wintergreen (oil) from which that procumbent plant gets its name.

  10. Stacie – I checked out your blog… I think your ‘shrooms may also be in the Trametes group… I emailed you a link. I’ve been using the Stokes’ Guide to Nature In Winter to kick start my investigations.

    Dave W. and cestoady – thanks for your help in identifiying my mystery berry. To be honest, I thought about wintergreen… but dismissed it because… doesn’t it prefer a more limestone habitat??? I’ll have to look that up… Anyway, it was in a place where I wouldn’t have suspected it… I’ll have to go back and break a leaf to see if it smells right!

    Everyone – thanks again for your kind words and encouragement!

  11. Wintergreen most definitely doesn’t need limestone – it’s all over the acidic sandstone ridges here, part of the heath-oak forest community along with laurel, azalea and lowbush blueberries. Not sure about the leaf.

  12. Pingback: Wintergreen « A Passion for Nature

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