The transition from the color riot of summer’s greens and early autumn’s red, orange, and yellow – that final stage before the world refines itself into the black and white of winter – is brown.
Late November is brown. Or, more accurately, browns.
Today I had a scant half hour to get myself some much-needed wilderness time, and I chose a walk around Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, where all of November’s browns are on display.
It was like walking through a sepia-toned photograph, where everything held still or flowed slowly, like molasses.
The swamp was unearthly quiet; there were no sounds but for the thud of my own boots on the boardwalk, the trickle of water, and an occasional chirp between birds. (Brown birds, no doubt.)
It was heavenly. Brown is a highly underrated color. Here are some shots from the trail that illustrate this point:
The trail begins with a long staircase that spans the hill from the visitors’ center to the boardwalk. This type of ecosystem is known as a Coastal Plain Bottomland Forest – it’s in the land that’s literally at the bottom.
Browns abound. From wispy stalks of dried grass to the carpet of cypress needles and other leaves, the landscape is warm and welcoming.
I can already hear you arguing “those leaves aren’t brown,” but consider this: Leaf color is really a factor of distance. From inches away, these leaves were splotches of carmine red in a citrine yellow background. From a foot or so away (and backlit by the sun) they appear dark orange. From a few feet away, they’re brown. And, just to fully finish blowing your mind: brown(s) are actually just a darker shade of orange.
Like a lichen, but not quite! Lichen are green because they are an algae (which is a green plant) united with a fungus. This is just fungus. It’s called reddish-brown crust (Hymenochaete badio-ferruginia) – an on-the-nose common name if ever I saw one.
When the eye isn’t distracted by a variety of colors, it can focus on intricate details, such as the texture of this tree bark. I’m not 100% certain on the identity of this tree – it’s branches were well above my head and all tangled with other trees’ limbs – but I think it’s a dogwood.
Here’s a view back down on the swamp from the end of this circular trail. Yes, I see the green holly leaves at the right and the golden gum leaves at center left. Don’t they look wonderful against all of those browns?
And now, because it’s my blog and I can, a list of some of the beautiful browns I saw today:
cafe au lait
Feel free to add some of your favorite browns to my long list by submitting them as comments!