October 17, 2020
Author: Phyllis Root
Photographer: Kelly Povo
Even though snow whitened the ground this past week before thoughtfully melting away, even though almost all native wildflowers have long gone to seed, we couldn’t resist another trip up to Helen Allison Savanna Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) to see the oak trees in their red and umber glory. Autumn color is drifting down, but the oaks, which seem to hang on to their leaves longer, didn’t disappoint. Even with heavy cloud cover they glowed.
We’ve been to Helen Allison SNA in the summer, but now we identified what plants we could by their distinctive seeds. Large-flowered beardtongue’s brown seed pods pointed upward in clusters, while spotted beebalm’s seed heads looked like fat beads stacked on a stalk. Poufs of white thimbleweed seed speckled the landscape, and sweet everlasting’s seed clusters looked at though clouds had landed on the ground.
It was clear, now that we weren’t distracted by blooming flowers, that in this part of the SNA the oaks mostly grew down in the blowouts. In the sand around one blowout we found clusters of some kind of fungi like villages of tiny round huts the color of oak leaves, and the earthstar fungi scattered around looked little bone colored stars. In the smaller swales patches of a starry-looking green moss felt soft and deep.
The sky clouded up even more, hinting at snow, and snow will come soon enough, we know. For today, though, no snow fell, and we had one more chance to visit a wild place to help see us through the coming winter.