It was good to get out in the woods again, the last couple of weekends I've been up on Lake Erie hiking the beach so it's been a while since I hiked around Sewickley. The woods are definitely showing signs of fall, the underbrush is really dying off now and opening up the forest. I did see a few Asters while out, but they're starting to fade and it won't be long now until the last of the wildflowers are finished until spring.
This is the first time I've photographed what I believe to be Smooth Blue Aster and I must admit, I'm only 90% confident on my identification. It, like many of the other Asters, is very similar looking to several other species of Aster but based on what I read, it looks like Smooth Blue Aster. The blossom and the plant looked relatively healthy though, so maybe they'll be around for a few more weeks, especially with this warmer weather.
I was surprised to see this cluster of Gem Studded Puffballs since it's so late in the season, but I guess I really shouldn't be since they, and a lot of other mushrooms, have very long growing seasons even if the individual mushrooms don't last very long. These puffballs were really in their prime but it won't be long before they begin to "puff" their spores to spread them far and wide.
I love fall, especially all of the colors that appear in the forest as leaves start to change. I found this maple leaf laying on the ground still holding hints of green, reds and yellows plus even a little white along the veins.
Puffballs are aptly named because they "puff" clouds of spores when struck. The openings that the spores pass through, which don't open until the spores are ready, can be clearly seen in this photograph.
After striking the mushrooms with my hiking stick, the cloud of spores are visible in this photograph as the greenish "smoke" in the photograph. After releasing the spores, I watched for a minute as the spore cloud drifted through the trees and into the forest.
Warm fall days bring out snakes and I almost stepped on this little Garter, but I didn't even see it. It was actually my sister who spotted it. We took a few pictures and then the snake become really agitated (see photograph in More Picture section) so we let him go on its way.
This fairly recent deer scrape was among a grove of Beech, Oak, and Hickory trees that had a lot of young saplings with signs of scraping, so it must be frequented by one or more bucks. I've read that male deer scrape saplings to leave their scent and to help remove the itchy velvet that covers their antlers while they're being grown.