There is some movement in the small trees as I step from the open into the woods. I pause for a closer look and see a group of warblers. I am able to discern four kinds feeding here: yellowthroat, redstart, Nashville warbler and golden-winged warbler.

These warblers, like many others, are family units that join to make flocks. Now they feed as they begin their southbound flight. Such movements are called warbler waves and there will be many more in late August.

In the forest, the floor is mostly green and I see about a half-dozen kinds of ferns that have thrived here all summer. They range in size from the tall ostrich and interrupted ferns to the small oak ferns.

Also beneath the trees is an abundance of leaves of various spring flora. Among this green foliage are some with their berries: red and white baneberries and blues of blue-bead lily (Clintonia).

Besides berries of these spring flowers, I find that some have surrendered their chlorophyll of the summer and are now yellow. This is especially seen in the rose twisted-stalks and starflowers, but a summer flower, dogbane, also now holds yellow leaves. The season is moving along.

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The August woods is delightful to walk in and as I look at the forest floor flora, I note that there is plenty of movement as well. Tiny toads and frogs that have emerged from the vernal ponds in recent weeks hop about in this shaded site. I see both the wood frogs and spring peepers and I hear a few gray tree frogs doing their late summer territorial calls.

But the August woods abounds with fungi, mostly on the forest floor.


Northland Nature: A spring fungus in the woods

Northland Nature: Shelf fungi living on trees in mid-winter

Fungi is a widely diverse group of life. The ones that we are most likely to see now in the woods are the mushrooms. I can easily see a dozen kinds.

Typically, mushrooms stand up from the substrate — ground or logs, looking like miniature umbrellas. The top part is called the cap, and most of the time, they have lines on the undersides. These are known as gills and it is here that the reproductive spores are produced. Some have tiny holes under the caps, instead of gills.

These porous mushrooms are collectively called boletes. I find both here; gilled are far more common. Caps of these mushrooms are of various colors; most are brown or tan, but as I look around, I see plenty more.

Meadow mushrooms (agaricus), milk mushrooms (lactarious) and many russula have white caps. Yellow shows up on the top of other russula, amanita and some boletes. The growth of chanterelles that I found have gold caps and stems. And the colors continue.

Along the trail is a red-orange lobster fungus (hypomyces). This strange fungus that appears to be bright is actually a mold on a mushroom. But brightest of all are the small waxy-capped mushrooms.

Not only do they brighten the forest floor with red caps, the gills and stem are also this same color. The name of "waxy cap" refers to how the flesh of these mushrooms feels. The ones that I see are scarlet red, but other waxy caps can be yellow, gold or orange.

They are only a couple of inches tall with caps less than 2 inches, but their colors allow them to be seen easily in this scene. Most mushrooms do not last long, but now and during the coming weeks are good times to take walks among this diverse fall fungi.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber