Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Leaf and fern
Before anyone asks, I did not place this leaf atop the fern. It was like this when I found it.
In fact, when I first saw this leaf, I was too far away to realize what it was. I simply saw this bright red "something" as I walked along the path between the mountains on Sunday. From a distance, it looked a bit like a flower, and I wondered what could possibly be blooming that was so large and so bright. And then I saw the fern and wondered if the "flower" had poked up between the fronds of the fern, perhaps protected by it, and then I finally saw it wasn’t a flower at all but a bright red leaf sitting on the fern.
Perfect, isn’t it?
As lightly as the leaf rests on the fern, I suspect it hadn’t been there for very long, nor, I suspect, did it remain there for long, as I think the slightest breeze would move it. And so my finding it sitting there was about as lucky as winning the lottery would be.
The leaf is a red maple. It’s one of the most abundant hardwoods, and one that can thrive under a variety of soil types. You can identify this leaf by its 3 or 5 lobes. This one almost qualifies for 5, if you count the little points just off the side to the top. The opposite lobes are paired, which means the leaf is the same on its right side as on its left, and it has those little teeth along the leaf’s margin. You can make maple syrup from this variety, but it doesn’t have the higher sugar content of the other commercial varieties.
The fern is a Christmas fern, so named as it is still green around Christmas time and was used, especially in Victorian times, as a Christmas decoration. It’s very common in the wet woods on the steeper slopes down in the valley. And since the plant likes steeper slopes, the ferns can be used for soil conservation, because after the first frost, they will flatten to the ground, holding fallen leaves on the slope so they can rot and become new soil.
But all that pales next to the simple beauty of a red leaf sitting in sunlight atop a green fern on an October afternoon.