New Year Muir Woods Walk 2011

One of our traditions to start a new year is to visit Muir Woods National State Park.  We went yesterday, joining the crowds of tourists from all over the world.  A fine misty rain was falling, and the pine smell was intoxicating. Unlike most of the visitors, who are there to see the huge, majestic redwood trees, we were in search of a tiny flower called a brownie, also known as slink pods, scoliopus and fetid adders-tongue. But before we found any we spotted some other wonders. George noticed this Ensatina salamander on a log:

The ranger had told us that there weren’t many banana slugs out because it has been so dry this summer and fall, but we did see one:

We also saw some interesting fungi–

The rain spotted spider webs with wonderful glittering light:

And, happily, in the same location we have sighted them in previous years, we were excited to see that the brownies were, indeed, there!  George was the first to spot one, and this is the one he found:

The brown-spotted leaves are so distinctive.

The flowers that have already bloomed and wilted leave the spikes hanging down. For perspective, these leaves are about 3 to 4 inches.  This is a closeup shot down inside the foliage, with a flower bud about to shoot up and bloom:

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 one shows a flower blooming and a bud down at the bottom.

So that’s how we choose to start our New Year — celebrating nature, reveling in finding amidst the roots of the tallest trees in the world the first tiny flowers that bloom in the winter.  What are your New Year traditions?

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