New Year Muir Woods Brownie Walk

Muir Woods was bustling on New Year’s Eve day. Many family groups from all over the world were there to appreciate the beautiful National Park, the redwoods, the clear cold weather — in many different languages we heard variations of what we’re sure must have been, “wow, look at that tall tree!”  (French, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, Indian dialects…).   Aside from the human visitors, this is the first critter we encountered, a soaring crow that was criss-crossing the parking lot:

As the crow flies

As the crow flies

As we waited to get into the Woods, I asked the guide whether there had been any brownie spottings.  A look of panic crossed his face, and I’m sure he thought I was some crazy lady who believed in fairies and wee folk, but his fellow guide assured us that yes, the brownie flowers, aka slink pods, scoliopus and fetid adders-tongue (more about that last name soon) were definitely blooming.  Last year, on our search for brownies at Muir Woods, we followed the normal trail to the left, and, unlike the normal sightseers who walked along looking up in awe at the towering redwood trees, we had our eyes trained on the ground, looking for the very small flowers.  It was a nice walk, but we were not rewarded with any sightings of the flower until we were three quarters of the way around the trail.  This time we bucked the flow and walked up the right side of the trail.  The first interesting thing we saw was not a flower, but was a banana slug —

Banana slug

Banana slug

We also saw some fun fungi–

Mushrooms on moss-covered tree trunk

Mushrooms on moss-covered tree trunk

And, happily, in the same location we sighted them last year, we were excited to see that the brownies were, indeed, there!  The first viewing (I was in front so I saw it first, and as is our tradition, got a kiss for my efforts) was this:

Slink pod foliage

Slink pod foliage

The brown-spotted leaves were the giveaway.  Sadly, the flowers had already bloomed and wilted, see the spikes hanging down the front?  For perspective, these leaves were about 3 to 4 inches.  We forged on, determined to see whether there were any flowers still blooming.  We were in luck!  We found a nice scattered grove of blooming flowers.  This one had three flowers blooming at once:

Slink pod flowers

Slink pod flowers

Here’s a closeup side view of a single flower:

Slink pod flower

Slink pod flower

I like the nickname brownies, but if you want to show off, you can also use the Latin: scoliopus bigelovii.  The name means “crooked foot”, because the flower stalk curves over after the flower is pollinated and grows too heavy for the slender stalk.   They’re also called Fetid Adder’s Tongue, and yes – that does refer to the scent, which is slight but unpleasant.  Scoliopus is part of the lily family (Liliaceae) and it is a perennial.  The flowers are quite small, at most about an inch, and the entire plant ranges from 3 to 6 inches tall.  This is a closeup shot down inside the foliage, with two small flower buds before they bloom:

Another closer shot where the foliage has uncurled and the bud is larger:

More closeups of the flowers.  I love the distinctive stripes:

That’s the end of our Muir Woods New Year’s Eve walk.  Oh wait – two more – George and me with our new friends.  Happy New Year everyone!!

Heidi and friends

Heidi and friends

George and friends

George and friends

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3 comments on “New Year Muir Woods Brownie Walk

  1. BackyardNaturePhotos says:

    I loved joining you both for a portion of your walk. Great photos and your slugs are so much prettier than ours.

  2. Laurel says:

    What a great way to start off the New Year!

  3. Carol Summers says:

    Thanks for taking me on this walk. Those flowers are quite interesting. They remind me of orchids. What a great find and the bears are so huggable.

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