Smilax bona-nox

A Very Colorful Fall Walk

The recent local weather (hot cold hot cold rainy sunny cold hot again), while making wardrobe deliberations a maddening ordeal with at best a 50-50 percent chance of success, have had an unexpected effect.  The local flora, famous for not giving a fig for seasonal expectations and remaining green until January, has decided, for once, to oblige Sigyn’s longing for a colored autumn.

We have therefore embarked upon a tour of the yard, the surrounding neighborhood, and the park at the end of the street, in order to take in all the offerings on this bright and sunny afternoon.



cedar elm




woolly bucket or gum bumelia (both ludicrous names)


upland swamp privet (an oxymoron if I ever heard one)


yaupon holly


post oak




winged elm






more asters

fall color-aster2

more yaupon


ditto (can you tell Sigyn really likes holly?)




a whole galaxy of asters  (Time for a little rest.  Dangling is hard work)


white mulberry


miniature dragon


poison ivy  (Go on, human female, pat the pretty plant!)


more mulberry


copperleaf (Aptly named, I’d say.)


More elmage


honey locust


bald cypress


yet more elms

fall-color-more elm

many shot of a truly splendid farkleberry

fall-color-vacciniumfall color-vaccinium2fall-color-more vaccinium

blackjack oak

fall-blackjack oakfall-color blackjack oak2fall-color-blackjack3

They say some medieval craftsman invented stained glass.  I’m not so sure.

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A Very Colorful Fall Walk, Part II: Sigyn’s Other Favorite Color

By now, I assume everyone in Midgard knows that Sigyn’s favorite color is red.  It’s bright and cheerful, just like she is.  Thus, her love of holly berries and sumac is easily explained.

She also has a soft spot yard deep and a mile long for anything yellow.  Good thing for her that there’s a lot of it round about these days.

The winged elms are usually the first thing to turn around here.  Their color has been variously described as number two pencil, Kodak film box, schoolbus, or macaroni and cheese…


They stand out among the green as if they were lit up from within.

The goldenrod is decidedly more lemony in hue.


They’re usually tall and wand-y, very hard to climb, so this bent-over one is a treat to sit in.  Sigyn thinks the flowers look like little stars.  And she’s not wrong!

Usually, the greenbriar is tangled up in the trees like so much botanical barbed wire.  You don’t see it until it has hold of you, and then—ouch!

Today, though, it’s announcing its presence in an unmistakable way.


And now Sigyn’s REALLY happy, because she’s found a couple of greenbriar leaves with both of her favorite colors!


Of course you can bring them home with us!   You bring the pretty leaves to admire, and I’ll bring the prickly stem to…hide in the human female’s sofa.

This is what I call a successful walk!

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Loki’s Mostly-Accurate Vine Primer

While the humans are finishing up with their photographs and questionable nomenclature, I’ve decided to review what I learned about the local vines.  You will see that I know quite as much as the human female.  Probably more.  For each vine, I will provide a handy mnemonic jingle.

Sigyn, don’t touch that!   I know the new growth is shiny and red,


but this is Poison Ivy.  Some people can be immune, but it’s best not to push one’s luck.  Leaves of three, let it be!  Frost Giants are immune, so I’ll just pick a bit to put in the human female’s next lunchtime salad.  (She’s always complaining that her packed lunches at work are boring.  I’m just trying to help.)

This plant, greenbriar, is scarcely less pleasant to deal with.  Sigyn and I have run into it several times before.


Look at those prickles!  It is the botanical equivalent of barbed wire!  Smilax vine makes you whine!  It can make some very dense, flesh-shredding tangles and has left its mark on every field botanist in the South.  (Do not ask to see the human female’s scars.  Some things are better left to the imagination. )


This plant looks like greenbriar, but it isn’t  prickly.  I’ve heard it called snailseed, but I can’t remember why.  I really never listen very closely when the human female talks.  Snailseed does no mean deed.


Oops, back to prickly things.  This is our local blackberry or dewberry.  It has both prickles …


And little red glandular hairs.


Dewberry, dewberry, make me a pie.  Beware of the prickles, it WILL make you cry!

Are you keeping score?  That’s one poisonous plant, two prickly plants, and one not-prickly plant rather cryptically named for a mollusc.

Our last vine of the day is Creepy Virginia.  It has leaves sort of like poison ivy and sort of like dewberry.  It climbs like poison ivy, but belongs to the grape family.  No prickles.


Five leaflets, harmless, up trees it will climb./ For words like “Virginia” there isn’t a rhyme.

Hey, there’s nothing to this poetry stuff!  Bet I can do a limerick.

A mighty Frost Giant named Loki/  Taught vines while the humans were pokey./  She won’t have a hunch/ P.I.’s in her lunch/ My mischief is naughty and joke-y.

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A January Afternoon Walk, Part II: More Treasures

I know that I always grumble about having to accompany Sigyn on these botanical walkabouts, but I usually do end up seeing something interesting or even beautiful.  (Sigyn is always the most beautiful sight, but some of the plants are nice too.)


It’s good to see the sedge meadow all squishy and wet.  It’s bottomland woods, so it’s meant to be that way.  We’re not wearing rubber boots today, so we will have to admire it from here.  Come summer, it’ll be a marvel of dappled green shade.

Sigyn, what have you found?  A little leftover bit of fall color?


Be careful, Sigyn–it’s that prickly greenbriar stuff.  Do you know, usually I hate the color orange, but that one leaf is just glowing like a citrine.  Or a citrus.  One of those.

Ah.  This must be the scratch-and-sniff portion of the walk.  The human female is rattling on about glands and aromatic oils and how this wax myrtle is related to bayberry and blah blah blah.  I just know that it smells good.


I think that Sigyn is gathering some leaves to make into a sachet.  It’s not too “girly” a scent, so I’ve no complaint.

I may pick a few of these lichens to take home.  Just look at all the wonderful shapes and textures.  Lichens are very underrated.


Oh, now this is a real treasure.  Sigyn likes the flowers (they’re late), even though they’re a scruffy, dirty white.


I’ve actually been reading up on this plant.  Its name–frostweed–intrigued me.  Apparently, if there’s a cold snap while the stems are still green, the stems rupture and the sap oozes out, freezing as it does so.  The result is a delicate ice “flower” that lasts only as long as the freezing temperatures.  You’d have to be in the right place at the right time to see it.  Sigyn, if we ever get a hard freeze this winter, we should come back out to see if we can catch it.  Or if the human would just wander off and look at something else, I could zap this one…

We’ve been hiking for an hour or more, and it is just about time for the human female to think about going home and making us some dinner.  (I am a god; I do not cook.)  But before we trek back to the vehicle, we should take a little rest, and here is the perfect spot.


Better idea:  Human, you heave yourself up, slog back to the car, go home, and cook dinner.   Call me when it’s ready and my sweetie and I will teleport home from  here.

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