In the Chaos of Fallen Leaves

Rattlesnake Plantain, a native orchid. Click to enlarge.

The forest floor this time of year is simultaneously beautiful and chaotic, a random tapestry of layered color, making it hard to find any one thing to focus on. Picking out the yellow and brown mushrooms you’re hunting among the tattered leaf fall is like finding Waldo hiding in the woods.

These ornately-veined leaves of the rattlesnake plantain appeared when their fresh leaf cover was brushed aside by my boot. This plant is very common, and will be with us over winter, one of the few green things alive, though dormant, even under the snow.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. You don’t see the rattlesnake plantain too much in the woods.I live in the New River Valley as well. I’ve just started my blog which will center on nature, outdoor travel and natural health. And am a Master Naturalist member as well. (How do you put a “caption” under your picture?)
    Our spring came way too early and there certainly aren’t too many flowers out now, but I’ve found by June the forest is mainly just green, green, green.