October 16, 2017
Autumn in Southeast Alaska
Southeast Alaska does not have landscape level fall color displays like New England and Appalachia. One has to get a little closer to the ground and forest in order to see some colors here, but it is still beautiful in its own way.
The lack of deciduous trees with a habit of turning color means that one must look to the shrubs and herbaceous plants such as blueberries (vaccinium spp.), rusty menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), red-stem dogwood (cornus stolinifera), crab-apple (malus fusca), and dwarf dogwood (cornus Canadensis).
They turn various shades of red, maroon, golden yellow and even a subtle purple on occasion. Lingonberry and cranberries both shine a vibrant red, awaiting the first frost to turn their tartness into a sweeter flavor.
There are numerous mushrooms around still, although mid-October is certainly late season for mushrooms in this region. They continue to fruit along old logging roads, in the forest, and among the beautiful golden and red mosses in the muskegs. One especially delightful fungus is commonly called birds-nest fungus, and it looks like a tiny bird nest with little “eggs” in it.
The "eggs" are sacs of spores, and they get dispersed when raindrops fall into the “nest”, and the “eggs” get splashed out into the forest. It is a fascinating and unique dispersal mechanism that works incredibly well in the rainforest.
One beautiful species of lactarius has an orange cap with a greenish center. It is fairly common on mossy ground in forests and disturbed areas. It exudes a milky latex when fresh and moist, hence the name “lactarius”, referring to the root for milk.
Most days this time of year are some combination of rainy, grey, wet, windy, and cold (sounds lovely doesn't it?), but my trusty sidekick Luna doesn't care, and she makes sure that we always go out-every day-to explore and go for a walk. The smile on her face makes it worth it every time!
Some day I will make it back east for the fall colors, but as long as I'm diving sea cucumbers every fall, that can't happen. So for now, I will continue to appreciate what I have all around me instead of lamenting that which I cannot have.
Happy fall everyone!