Its been almost a full year since this nature journey along Pimmit Run Stream Valley Trail began, and now the cycle of life is about to begin anew. December brought darkness with the longest night of the year at Winter Solstice, and now we can look forward to a gradual lengthening of days. What is most notable about this month along the stream valley is the starkness of the trees and the earth, and how it all glistens when the sun does shine upon it. That, and the distinct quiet of the woods in winter. There is an openness in the forest now - less appears to be happening, but more can be seen.
The bare trunks in the woods leave little cover for over-wintering birds, but make it easier for us humans to spy on them. Different species play together well and it is a wonder to watch them.
There is beauty in the dormant brush left on the forest floor. Dried, standing grasses of the stream valley form winter sculptures. Below, dried Deertongue (Dichanthelium clandestinum) rests on other brush atop a bed of leaves.
This is the time of year when we celebrate the native evergreens. While the floodplain forest seems denuded, there are reliable native evergreens aplenty in the Floodplain, Mesic Hardwood Forest, and Oak-Beech Heath natural communities, including American Holly (Ilex opaca), Mountain Laurel (Kalmis latifolia), and Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), which all provide an occasional touch of green.
Extra special woodland evergreen species can be spotted on the forest floor if one knows where to hunt for them. Partridgeberry (Michella repens). Crane Fly Orchid (Tupularia discolor), and Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) are all very special evergreen natives that seem to thrive in this most dark and cold time of year, even if they tend to elude sightings.
Last But Not Least -- Mushrooms of the Stream Valley
And then there are the mushrooms, an ever changing population that seems to come and go at will. The Turkey Tail is coming into its own now, and almost tempting me to try out some Turley Tail Tea. The color variations of this fungi are endless and amazing.
Last but not least, I was gratified to spot a culinary delicacy growing along the floodplain - Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus). It is one of the most common types of cultivated mushrooms in the world, grown commercially, and popular in Asian cooking. In the spirit of foraging and safety, I left it be. A gift of nature for others to enjoy and see.
My one year nature journey is now complete. Experiencing the unraveling of nature's progress throughout the course of a year along the stream valley has been an incredible experience. I am sure I missed a great deal. So, while this monthly journal is complete, I will update it periodically as new discoveries dictate.