Found on the Forest Floor

Even before most of our leaves began to color or fall, this early October pair had come to rest beneath Longleaf and Loblolly pines in the Big Thicket of East Texas.

I especially enjoyed the way the leaves’ colors were complemented by the colors surrounding them. The red, orange, and rust of the leaf above displayed well among rusty leaves and needles, while the gray and yellow of the second leaf, a short distance away, was complemented by its gray wooden frame.

In both cases, the leaves’ bits of remaining green echoed the color of the still lushly green and vibrant Sphagnum moss (perhaps Sphagnum squarrosum).

Lovely in their own right, the leaves were a fine reminder to look down as well as up for hints of autumn color.


Comments always are welcome.

47 thoughts on “Found on the Forest Floor

    1. They do seem to want picking up, don’t they? I think I remember you asking your mom to send you some of your gorgeous northeastern leaves. I understand that — fall and pretty, colored leaves belong together.

    1. I hadn’t seen that, but it does have the right colors for some of our butterflies, and the splotchy patterns resemble a few. At least the leaf got to do a little flying, even if was only from its branch to the ground.

  1. To look down at a fallen leaf isn’t necessarily to look down upon it. On the contrary, you looked up to the colorful leaves you found by looking down. The two have similar shapes; do you think they’re from the same type of tree? Any idea what species (singular or plural)?

    1. I’m sure they’re the same species, and I think it’s possible they were from the same tree; they were quite close together on the ground. I’m not sure about their identity. There are a lot of east Texas trees I’m not able to ID with certainty. My suspicion is some kind of bay tree — the sort that gave baygalls their name.

      1. I’m away from my computer, so linking is a little awkward, but I found this in the Wiki:

        “The name baygall is derived from sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and sweet gallberry holly (Ilex coriacea). These and swamp titi (Cyrilla racemiflora) are dominant and other common shrubs include southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera), water willow (Decodon verticillatus), red bay (Persea borbonia), and Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica).”

  2. Fall leaf litter is always worth a look-see, Linda, or a photo op— as your pictures demonstrate. I look down as much as up, especially as fall progresses and there is more color on the ground than in the trees. Then, of course, there is the challenge of persuading the leaves to be somewhere else, instead of in your gutter and around the house. There is so much beauty on our ground, I’m about to have a date with my leaf blower. –Curt

    1. It hardly seems fair. First the leaves sweep you off your feet with their beauty, and you return the favor by blowing them off your yard (and gutters, and walkways, and who knows what else). At least in the old days we raked them up into huge piles, and let them be part of our fun for a while. Years ago, a neighbor had a dog that adored jumping in leaves. We could spend an entire afternoon watching that dog — with time out to rebuild the piles occasionally.

  3. massive fall color is so rare down here that we have to look at individual leaves. I know tallows are invasive but I do like their leaves in the fall, all spotty with red, yellow, orange, green, and brown.

    1. I agree about the tallows. It is a shame they’re such an invasive, but their colors can be gorgeous, especially after a quick, sharp cold. It looks like some of the oaks in my area may turn this year. There are some that produce a lovely, deep burgundy — just as pretty as any red or orange.

    1. Now that I’ve looked at that top leaf again, I’ve spotted what could be two eyes in the upper right quadrant. What’s funny is that I can’t unsee them — you’ve turned a dead leaf into a living creature! It’s (more) magic!

  4. I was just looking up Longleaf and Loblolly pines, which don’t grow in the NE, and see that loblolly is sometimes called “rosemary pine”- – that sounds great, does the Big Thicket smell like that to you? I like the way the 2nd leaf is framed by the cavity in that root or branch

    1. That’s interesting. I’ve never come across ‘rosemary pine’ as a name for Loblolly. It might be more common in other places where it grows, like Florida and the southeast. At any rate, I’ve never caught the scent of rosemary around the trees, either, but I haven’t crushed their needles. That might be the trick, since even the rosemary plant is more fragrant when its leaves are crushed.

      Of course I saw the leaf in the second photo as a little sailor in a yellow slicker, sailing in a wooden boat. Unfortunately, he seems to have run aground.

          1. Aye, Fluffy and White is beautiful, but this is a La Niña year and we have already had several servings of heavy, wet slop and subsequent melt with no frost in the ground… (and oh, how I dread the prospect of bone-penetrating cold and damp rather than that of crisp, blue skies and fluffy snow piles that stay all winter)

    1. That’s true in every season, I think. Even when things aren’t so pretty (as happens in our winters), they can be very interesting, and interesting makes up for a lot of not-so-pretty.You get snow, though, so your winters can be beautiful in a different way. Granted, they can be a hassle, and long, and all that — but who doesn’t love a fresh snowfall, sculpted into beautiful drifts?

    1. “Gone With the Wind” would do it, Gerard. Of course, there’s “The Wind in the Willows,” too — not to mention the old song with the refrain, “Everyone knows it’s Windy.”. We do seem to have a fascination with wind, and with its effects. I like to think the leaves enjoy their autumn tumble. I hope they do.

    1. I think she would have. I can imagine them tucked in very nicely with her rocks and bones and feathers. One of my favorites of her paintings is “The Lawrence Tree.” I’m wondering now if she ever painted its leaves.

  5. Love these multi-colored leaves. It’s always an interesting project to look through leaf litter and to notice what’s fallen from above. Aside from the texture and color (as you so well demonstrate!), I’m always surprised at how big leaves are. They don’t look that big when they’re waving in the wind high above.

    1. These were really big leaves, too: not huge, but probably five inches long. Maybe six. The other leaves that surprised me in East Texas were those from the Longleaf pine. The name should have been a clue! Those needles are the longest I’ve ever seen, and they’re just delightful. If I can get back there before Christmas, I need to try for a photo that shows what I finally imagined; the longleaf needles hang on all the other plants like tinsel on a Christmas tree.

    1. You reminded me of the different meanings of the word ‘grounded,’ too. Being ‘grounded’ as a teenager is quite different than being well-grounded as an adult. There’s a theologian named Paul Tillich who refers to God as the ‘Ground of our Being,” and sometimes leaves get ground into mulch. What a word!

  6. You know, Linda, I believe this is the time of year when you’ll find more autumn color by looking down than by looking up! After all, most of our trees by now are “sticks,” although I’ve noticed tiny buds which will linger until May or so. These are lovely specimens — thanks for sharing them!

    1. Our real leaf fall hasn’t begun yet, although it won’t be long.Some of the trees are half-bare, which always amuses me. It’s like the process begins, and then the tree says, “Not so fast! I’m not ready for winter to get here!” As for those buds, yesterday I found baby bluebonnets. They form their basal leaves this time of year, and then just hang around and wait until spring, when they’ll turn into that glorious blue carpet.

  7. There’s a beauty in decay and end of life that most don’t appreciate probably because many are not comfortable with their own mortality. But as leaves show us when we shed certain qualities of youth our maturity becomes something beautiful on its own. I really enjoy the combination of colors your observant eyes found on the forest floor.

    1. I agree that decay has a beauty of its own, and it’s that process that often makes the end of life more acceptable. I thought these colors were pleasing, especially with their greens complementing the surrounding moss. I’m glad you enjoyed seeing them.

  8. When I’m in the woods, my head is usually tilted up scanning tree branches for birds. I stumble a lot. Roots, fallen limbs, uneven ground.

    More and more I am training myself to pay attention to the forest floor. Rewards are plentiful.

    When first gazing upon your absolutely lovely photographs, I immediately thought of ripening persimmons and mangoes. Both are on the table about to be sliced into a bowl with a squeeze of lime.

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