A close-up look at a maturing pine cone through the needles of its tree in Lincoln Park.
It is easy for things to be go unseen in October’s leaf covered lawns. I paused and backtracked a few steps when spotting these two cone-shaped mushrooms. Had they been brown instead of off-white I might have paid them no attention.
Coprinus comatus is the formal name for Shaggy Mane, this variety of an “inky cap” mushroom. That sentence sparks the exploring learner in me, curious to understand what my eyes (and camera) have seen. Admittedly I am no expert yet on nature’s diversity.
These evergreen trees were planted as a privacy wall by a nearby neighbor that faces an open field owned by Commonwealth Edison, our electric company. This winter, their matured growth serves as a sturdy barrier, collecting some of this record-breaking season’s wind-blown snow. What wildlife is huddled down inside keeping relatively dry and warm is left to my imagination; it would be unkind of me to disrupt the dense fortification to seek answers to my wonderings.
These trees are most likely American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘American’), used often for the purpose previously described: to act as a hedge wall. The brown elements showing through the snow are most likely opened cones absent of seeds.
For more information: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/thuja/occidentalis.htm
The metaphor for the last stage of life is often winter. Winter is a time of less energy when chilled temperatures, shorter days, plant dormancy or death, and animal migration and hibernation. Animals settle in for periods of longer rest or become “snow birds” literally migrating to warmer climates. Annual plants literally die. Perennial plants and deciduous trees have less energy, so quit their work and retire. There are some, like some people, that seem have eternal energy, determined to thrive throughout the harsh winter months.
“Green” is the most obvious sign of an active winter species. Buds, the plant’s newborns, do not always wait for spring’s warmer days and more colorful settings. The evergreen White Pine hosts young buds during winter months. These youthful outgrowths are surviving sub-zero temperatures while blanketed by dense snow, which does indeed give shelter species from the arctic air.