January 2, 2022
As leafy greens and flowery hues bled from the landscape in northern Ohio, a December 26 tour of the neighborhood yielded a remarkably consistent range of colors. Smoky blues blend well with the amber shades that have replaced the emeralds of spring, summer, and much of fall. Even brown can display a richness.
1 In winter the leftover bracts* of small white asters look like flowers.
3 These puffball mushrooms have done their reproductive duties, as evidenced by their small holes. A friend has suggested that more spores might have been spread if only I had squeezed them.
4 My favorite grass in my favorite ditch now specializes in orangey browns and bluish grays.
9 Some green lingers in lawn bordering Meadow Pond.
10 Tenacious oak leaves punctuate a woods of bare trees.
11 Beside Island Pond a cottonwood reveals its skeleton.
12 Cattails draw a horizontal line along Island Pond.
*My husband/resident botanist rarely gives me one-word answers. I asked him, “Are these bracts?” Here is his reply: “The term bract describes lots of kinds of plant organs. Bracts are leaf homologs (they share a genetic basis with leaves) that are modified to deliver many disparate services to the possessing plant. In this case they protect the developing head of flowers produced by a member of the composite (Aster) family. Here they have a special name: phyllaries. In the burdock—another composite and the plant that inspired the invention of velcro—they are armed with terminal hooks to encourage the seeds inside to be dispersed by passing animals. They also are the appendages that we prize when we eat artichokes.”