Local Color

There’s plenty of color in the Southern Appalachian forests, as if hue and saturation sliders were nudged to the right by the Master Painter. In just the past week, we’ve had a remarkable intensification of the yellows, golds and reds that were so faint just ten days ago.

And while the forest floor is temporarily also colorful with freshly-fallen scarlet and saffron hickory, oak, maple and poplar, that goes quickly to somber sienna and burnt umber. Except…

We do see these occasional splashes of brilliant red berries clustered low to the ground and often hidden under fallen leaves.

Can you identify what plant these berries make seeds for? (Mouse-over to see more of this plant.) I’m betting somebody will nail this right away.

No telling what the coming leaf peeper weekend will offer travelers, after the hard rains and strong winds pass through with this present storm system that is spawning tornadoes here and there. Maybe there will be some leaves left attached to twig and branch.

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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. No leaves left. They are long gone. But ginseng a reasonable guess, and if so, location a secret! Hint: This is much lower to the ground than Sang berries would be.

  2. Yep, it’s Jack in the Pulpit. There were dozens in the area where this image was taken, but only one survived (browsing by–deer? rabbits? something else?