Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brown is the color for me....

Today's title is a quote from Henry Thoreau. It was passed on to me by fellow naturalist, Rex Burress. Since I've been photographing brown things and trying to find as much beauty in brown as I can, it seemed appropriate. I had to look it up to find some context, and it seems Thoreau was showing respect for ordinary things - brown coats, for instance - and the full quote alludes to the brown bread of the poor. How ironic that there was a time, not that long ago, when white bread and pastries were items for the wealthy while the poor had to eat whole wheat items which were actually healthier. Is that a kind of karma or what?
So, today, I was actually seeking out more brown subjects such as seed pods, dead leaves, pine cones, and the like, when I was startled by the discovery of a new (for me) species of wildflower, the California Fuschia, Epilobium canum. That's the same genus as Fireweed and it's in the Evening Primrose family. At a time when leaves are beginning to turn brown and most flowers have long since wilted, the brightness of the red fuschia was amazing. These were growing in a rocky outcropping by the Greenville Y where I also revisited what I called the Bonsai Douglas-fir in one of my first posts here last year. The little tree growing out of a crack in the rocks was still only about two feet tall, yet was already producing cones. Also in the vicinity were some Big Leaf Maple. Most leaves were still green, but a few are turning yellow or brown. I find them particularly photogenic when back-lit as are the two samples above. Finally, among the first leaves to turn bright red are the Poison Oak and the Service Berry. So, I photographed a lot of color considering the fact I was looking for brown. I'll post a few more from this excursion tomorrow morning.
As an amateur botanist, I was recently asked for a prediction about this fall's colors. Since I don't have any money riding on the outcome, like owners of B&Bs and motels, restaurants, etc., in the regions known for fall colors, I was rather blunt. I not only predicted a poorer than average season for fall colors, but I also said these predictions aren't worth beans. There are too many variables at play, right up to the last days of summer, so anything's possible. I based my negative prediction on the fact that a few species, like Indian Rhubarb or Umbrella Plant, that normally produce some of the brightest yellows, oranges, and reds, are already turning brown.
Maybe I'll be proven wrong. However, to be on the safe side, consider booking a flight to Asheville, NC, where everyone is predicting a banner year for fall colors.

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