There is not much color left in the woods; lots of grays, browns, and tans. The leaves are off the trees. There are no wild flowers left. There is, however, some surprising color in some of the smaller bits of the forest: fungi, lichens, mosses, and some remaining small, green plants. Among the green plants, the most vivid are those growing in or close to water.
The slide show below is of some of the color I saw over the last two days on the Osceola Loop of Ridgeview Trail north of Osceola, Wisconsin.
Under the slide show are some words about toadstools and mushrooms from Colin Tudge’s book The Tree.
Fungi in general consist of a great mass of threads (known as “hyphae” which collectively form a “mycelium”) and a fruiting body that typically appears only transiently, and often manifests as mushroom or toadstool. Many of the toadstools that are such a delight in autumn, and are avidly collected by gourmet peasants in France and Italy and elsewhere, are the fruiting bodies of fungi, which, below ground, are locked into mycorrhizal associations with the roots of trees and help them grow. Thus the fungi are even more valuable that they seem. The wild mushrooms and toadstools are often only a tiny part of the whole fungus. The whole subterranean mycelium, including the mycorrhizae, sometimes covers many acres and weighs many tons. Forest fungi, mostly hidden from view, include some of the largest organisms on earth [emphasis is mine].