DECEMBER

December 1st TREES FALL
Still the fairly mild weather continues, but with very high winds today. Early this morning we heard the crack and subsequent crash of a tree falling down. The roof was still intact, so we went ahead with coffee and breakfast, and then went out to investigate. It turned out to be a hemlock tree back in the woods standing somewhat alone (and therefore more easily susceptible to the high winds) which we chose to leave for the time being. We'll get back there in a day or two when the wind dies down to cut it up for firewood, it being too late in the season to strip the bark for baskets. Besides, it's a little scary out there in all this wind with branches flying around every which way. Heading back toward the house I noticed that the forest floor was filled not only with downed branches, but with clubmosses of several species. These I wanted to draw.

December 2nd TREE CLUBMOSS
Today was calm, so I went up back to sketch the clubmosses that I had seen there yesterday. There are a dozen or more different species of clubmosses in our area and everyone seems to know them by a different name. Most often they are referred to collectively as ground pine or running pine. This tends to lead to a lot of confusion when trying to accurately distinguish one from the other (which is of course not necessary to do in order to enjoy them). After noticing all the different varieties in my immediate neighborhood, I became interested in finding out more about them. Identification is the easiest place to start, so I picked up a book A Field Guide to the Ferns and their Related Families by Boughton Cobb, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1963) in the library when we were in town yesterday afternoon.

All of the clubmosses are small, evergreen perennials creeping along the ground with trailing or upright stems. They look like either miniature pine trees, cedars or overgrown mosses. Large clusters of these in the woods appear like lilliputian forests. One almost expects to see tiny elves dancing around and stringing them with partridge berries while singing little forest songs.

The one that I find most common in our forest, and the first species illustrated here is properly called tree clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum), or ground pine. This species typically grows to a height of about six to eight inches tall along a creeping underground stem at intervals of approximately six inches apart. You can follow the trail from the more mature plants to the younger specimens; like the children's game “connect the dots.” The mature plants have a number of spore bearing cone like structures called strobili atop the uppermost branches. The lower branches curve outward in a circle and droop down in gentle arcs, forming umbrella like patterns.

The picture I envision (after connecting the dots) is either a serpent, a lasso, the constellation Draco, or some other thread-like wriggle. Two or three groupings of these clubmoss trails combine to make more elaborate associations. The one that most often comes to my mind is a poodle.

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