Some of the most magnificent artistic creations of nature can be found on the forest floor. Of course that sometimes means being down on hands and knees, camera close to the ground to capture something from an unusual angle.
One of the things I’ve been trying hard to do this summer is really observe what is around me, rather than just walking through life seeing what I expect to see. I miss so much of what nature has to offer when I forget to truly explore like a four-year-old.
Fungi fascinate me. Their unique shapes, colors and ability to pop up out of seemingly nowhere (and sometimes overnight) are amazing. Like this Amanita. It reminds me a bit of a dumbbell the way the bottom is of similar shape to the top. There are several hundred species of this type of fungi. Some are vivid colors or red or yellow.
These are Summer Oyster mushrooms. They are vividly brilliant white and look so delicate when seen from underneath. Their intricate gills remind me of an old fashioned silky pleated skirt. A true work of art, or at least to me it is.
But along with the beautiful and delicate also come what most would describe as a “standard” mushroom, but is really one of the most deadly ones in the forest – the Eastern North American Destroying Angel. Part of the universal veil on this mushroom can be seen at the bottom of it. A universal veil refers to a membrane covering on a fungi when it is starting to grow. As it grows, this breaks sometimes leaving bits on the top of the fungi and/or at the bottom, such as shown in this picture.
My take on fungi: DO NOT EAT MUSHROOMS FOUND IN THE WILD. Even experts in the field have been fooled by fungi that look similar to other edible ones. I just admire them and buy my mushrooms from the grocery store.
But the forest floor isn’t all about fungi. It’s a wonderful world to explore, with new trails around every corner. Who wouldn’t want to find themselves on this boardwalk on a cool summer morning. Doesn’t it look inviting?
Or on this magnificent trail…where birds, chipmunks and squirrels keep you company. Where troubles and worries seem to cease to exist, and it’s just you and the forest. The sound of leaves rustle gently in the trees. And peace surrounds you.
And flowers, of course, like this little yellow jewel. I believe it’s a Woodland Sunflower but not positive. This group of wildflowers always keep me guessing, but I so admire their beauty and ability to thrive in all types of circumstances.
But look closer, and you will see the tiny little bug that likes this flower. This little one is in the Geron genus, but I couldn’t identify it beyond that due to the poor photo quality (and inexperience identifying bugs). The bug capture was pure accident, but it just goes to show when you take a photo you sometimes never quite realize what you’re actually getting.
And sometimes you just get lucky and manage a quick photo of something you happen upon, like this Green heron. There were somewhere between six to eight Green Herons in this small wetland area just off a very-little used trail in Blackhand Gorge state nature preserve. They were not very happy that we were sharing their wetland area, so we quietly observed and left them to their day.
Sometimes when I’m hiking I find beauty in things most would probably consider very unconventional, like the moss-covered roots of this tree. So many shades of vivid green and roots that stretch out across the ground like fingers holding onto the earth. Rather artistic. Mother Nature should be proud of this one.
Perhaps next time you find yourself in the woods, you’ll take a look around. Admire the beauty there and be sure to look at what great works of art you can find on the forest floor.