Fall Findings

It’s been quite incredible being in Appalachia during the Autumn season, a first for me. This past week the colors of the leaves have drastically changed.  While uploading my mid-October photos I realized I had a beautiful color scheme going on and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been admiring all week during my hikes.

I spend hours in the forest and it’s difficult to resist taking photos of everything that I see, but some things I just can’t resist.  Enjoy!

Marbled Orb Weaver Spider - Nantahala National Forest

Another Marbled Orb Weaver Spider in leaf tent pulled together with webbing - NNF

I’ve come across other magnificent looking orb weavers but these two really caught my attention.  I believe these are both female Marbled Orb Weavers (Araneus marmoreus) because they both ran from their web and into their tents, apparently the females are larger and tend to lurk within their tents.  The second one used her web to weave together three leaves creating her hideout.

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Eft stage of Red-spotted Newt - NNF

Red-spotted Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) have an interesting life cycle.  As larva they are an aquatic species, they then metamorphose into the terrestrial juvenile eft stage (as pictured).  As adults they will then return to being an aquatic species, turning a muted yellow-greenish color with red-orange spots still present.  Their beautiful color is a warning sign, they are indeed poisonous.

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The Chicken of the Woods fungi - Cherokee National Forest

Found attacking the base of an oak tree, The Chicken of the Woods/Sulfur Shelf fungi (Laetiporus sulphureus) gets its name because apparently it reminds people of the taste of chicken, so yeah it’s edible. I’d suggest eating the fungi over killing a chicken, however I didn’t take any of the fungi, nor will I take any of a chicken.

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Sassafras on the side of the Cherohala Skyway on a foggy morning.

I later saw even more brightly colored Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) saplings on our hike off of the skyway in search of a plot of snags, but this one initially caught my eye with its mixture of colors- from green to red and everything in between. I love their leaves, the three different shapes, the mitten one being my favorite. Sassafras was deemed a carcinogen so it’s no longer allowed to be used in teas and foods, but you can still find it. It’s probably one of my favorite scents in the forest, right up their with the wintergreen aroma of a Sweet Birch (Betula lenta).

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I hope everyone is enjoying this season and its chilly mornings and breezy afternoons.


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