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Home coloured

Coming home to the west coast of Scotland after nearly a month away is like putting back on green-tinted shades. The colour shift involved when travelling from north to south or south to north is not something that is noticed immediately but on a sunny day in the south of England, on contemplating an attractive view, it left me with the feeling that there was something ‘not quite right’ out there. It took a while for realisation fully to sink in. In different places landscapes have different colour palettes, this despite the presence of familiar components like trees, grass and so on. It is the combination of all these elements, the brown earth, the trees and their trunks, the vegetation on the edges of fields, the roofs of houses, that our eyes translate into a memory so that we have a sense of place, of familiarity in our surroundings. Green mossColour is an essential part of that memory.

Which brings me back to western Scotland where we have a colour palette which has considerably more green in it than many other places in Britain, sometimes bright green like we find in our moss. Since living here our eyes have become tuned in to the landscape to the point where nothing else looks quite right. When we leave Scotland it is as if someone has filtered out much of the green-ness leaving only browns and yellows.

But having said all this, we have arrived now at that time of year when all our deciduous green trees are changing colour, first to yellow or red then to brown or black.

Ash berries

We notice that in the south the process starts with the sycamores, followed by the ash trees which very quickly are left with only their red berries showing. It seems that nature has a set order for leaf-fall in autumn. Back in Scotland though the order is not so clear. Chestnut and beech trees seem to hang on longer to their leaves, perhaps to keep the nuts hidden from view as long as possible. Oak trees seem to operate on their own timetable. The milder spell of weather must confuse them (if a tree can ever be confused) but we are promised a raw chill any day now so autumn will come crashing along and we will soon be drowning in leaves of all shapes and sizes.

Lichen on deer hill

Now for this month’s mystery picture.

Not a plant nor an animal, this is a lichen, both an algae and a fungus, a symbiotic relationship between two living things which enables it to grow on rock, taking its nourishment from anything that falls on it. This one, Cladonia coccifera, is about three millimetres high, captured by poking my camera right up its apothecia (the red bit).

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