Notes from a plant nerd: Worts and All

Among the duff of last year’s fallen leaves lie many interesting and beautiful shapes to catch your eye on a winter’s walk in the woods. From the mosses and orchid leaves described in previous columns, to newly emerging plants preparing for spring’s full flush, there are many forms and patterns on the winter forest’s floor.

Notes from a Plant Nerd: Red Maple Winter

There’s a change in the air every year around this time. A subtle shift in energy. Days start getting longer, and sunset occurs later each day. Birdsong sings louder in the morning, and the sounds of wood frogs echo through the valleys.

Notes from a plant nerd: Winter moss gathers no stones

Among my favorite types of plants that grow year-round, and tend to especially shine in the wintertime, are mosses.

Notes from a plant nerd: Winter Green

While there are many plants that stay green throughout the winter, there is only one plant known as wintergreen.

Notes from a Plant Nerd: The winter forest

I love walking in the woods in the wintertime. Sure, there aren’t any wildflowers blooming, but there are no mosquitos to swat away, no flies or ants to bug your lunch, and no snakes to startle your path either. The long-range views visible through leafless trees give a fresh perspective to familiar trails as all the ridges and hollows are outlined starkly on the hillsides, showing evidence of water and its effect through millions of years of erosion.

Notes from a Plant Nerd: Nothing New Under the Winter Sun

Every year on the last night of December, in the dead of winter, the cries go out of “Happy New Year!” We toast our old acquaintance, kiss our sweethearts, celebrate the highs and drown the lows of the previous twelve months in a night of revelry.

Notes from a plant nerd: Pushing Leaves

Every year, the fallen leaves blanket the forest floor in the fall. And every spring the wildflowers have no trouble pushing up through them to bloom.

Notes from a plant nerd: Witch-hazel

Just as most of the other plants, shrubs and trees in the woods are shutting down and preparing to go dormant for the winter, here comes witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) just beginning to flower for the year. Many will not see their blooms, if they notice them at all, until the leaves are gone. But they begin blooming just in time for Halloween, like any good witch would. 

Notes from a plant nerd: The leaves don’t just fall, y’all. They’re pushed

We have a tendency in our modern culture of celebrating only the young, youthful and new parts of our world, and not enjoying the old, aging and dying parts. We tend to fear death and growing old. Throughout the world, indigenous traditional cultures celebrate and venerate older members of their people as the carriers and imparters of wisdom, knowledge and how to live well on the earth.

Notes from a plant nerd: Gentians, pronounced like ‘gen-shun’

It used to be, when I was first getting into wildflowers, that I would see the gentians begin to bloom, and my heart would sink a bit. The melancholy would start to grow, and I’d get a little sad knowing that the end of the wildflower season was getting near. See, I consider gentians to be the last wildflower to bloom in the fall. Now I know that this isn’t exactly true, as the flowers of witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, only start blooming in the fall and can continue to bloom through December. 

Page 1 of 2
Smokey Mountain News Logo
SUPPORT THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN NEWS AND
INDEPENDENT, AWARD-WINNING JOURNALISM
Go to top
Payment Information

/

At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.