A December Morning Walk: In the Absence of Leaves

It was gray and blustery as I began my walk in Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park on the morning of December 6.

Since the mixed rain and snow precipitation the day before had ended with a period of steady rain, I headed to the river to check the water level. The water was quite high, though not over the banks, and the view of the landscape from the footbridge was typical of any snow-free day in December.

Later, in the perennial flower field where many seed stalks remain standing, I focused on Queen Anne’s Lace (aka Wild Carrot). In a world of shades of brown, seed clusters can be quite attractive.

About two and a half months ago, female Praying Mantises, nearing the end of their lives, were laying eggs on various standing plants. Now that the leaves are fallen, it is much easier to locate the egg cases they made.

In about five more months, dozens of little mantises will emerge from each of the cases that make it safely through the winter. This one is attached to a Blackberry cane

Climbing vines have long interested me (maybe “fascinated me” more accurate). Halfway through the morning I was noting again the way Bittersweet vines twine their way up trees and up other vines.

Here Bittersweet vines are climbing a larger Grape vine (the darker one with peeling bark), which is attached to a tree much higher

A few of the American Sycamore trees in the park have small branches low enough for one to view the color patterns of the bark. The absence of leaves makes winter a perfect time to stop here.

The green trees in the background are Spruce.

A little over a month ago, in early November, I reported on the Cinnabar Polypore mushrooms that I found growing on fallen Cherry branches. They have not changed much in the last month, still present, still soft, and still brightly colored both above and below.

After I wandered around the park for about 3 hours (and walked about 4 miles), the sky cleared briefly as I headed back. I stopped at a patch of Staghorn Sumac, admiring the way the seed “cones” still stand tall, as they have since July. They will continue to add a little color all winter.

Winter presents, in a sense, a different world. It is a world that does not call attention quite so constantly to flowers and leaves and insects and fruit. And in this different world, there is opportunity to observe the wonders of nature a little differently.

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