With two rain storms come and gone on California’s northern coast, several plants, fungi and animals that stay dormant or hidden during the warmer months are blooming or crawling forth from the ground. Here, a snow plant emerges from its bed of moss and humus.
These are one of the few plants that don’t don’t derive their nutrition from photosynthesis. In a healthy forest, many trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungi that attach to their root systems; the tree provides sugars to the fungus, while the fungus provides mineral nutrients and water to the tree. The snow plant attaches to these fungi and draws sugars from it.
With leaf litter starting to build up on the forest floors, young yellow-spotted millipedes are appearing in large numbers. When immature, these flat-backed millipedes will feed on humus, freeing up nutrients for other organisms in the forest ecosystem as fallen leaves are digested. While they grow, they will develop rows of bright yellow spots along their sides as a warning to potential predators about the millipedes’ ability to emit hydrogen cyanide as a defense mechanism.
An immature yellow-spotted millipede making its way through the forest
Pictured behind the millipede in the above image are white coral fungi, which sprout during the fall to become a common but enchanting element of the ground cover in coastal spruce and redwood forests during the colder months. Less commonly seen are orange and yellow-tipped coral fungi.
A yellow-tipped coral fungus below a redwood tree
The rains have also brought forth a savory treat. Golden chanterelles are prized for their complex flavor by chefs around the world, and will grow in several types of forest. Here, they are a common occupant of spruce groves with deep leaf litter and a nearby water source.
A cluster of golden chanterelles growing under a fallen log
With plentiful food available in the coastal forests, the Pacific sideband snail is most active during the fall. It will feed on fungi and plant matter, mostly during the morning and evening hours, before hibernating in the winter.