" There is a Power, a Presence in the wood, A viewless Being, that with life and love
Informs the reverential solitude;
The rich air knows it, and the mossy sod.
Thou, Thou art there, my God 1 The silence and the sound.
In the lone places breathe alike of Thee."
WHEN the autumn breath stirs the woodlands, the clustering acorns begin to fall, and the angular beechmast studs the ground. The juicy raspberry has departed, but the big blackberries pout from the trailing branches. The elder bushes are laden with their dark fruit, relieved by the red stalks and fading leaves. Berries are abundant on the bushes. Nuts are ripening, and the hips and haws show that God's orchard is plentifully supplied. The leaves are beginning to change, and the flowers of the woodland are nearly over.
The Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia) is yet in bloom, if we do not overlook its spike of greenish flowers, through which the purplish-brown anthers are Been. The leaves are wrinkled like the garden sage, and are very bitter; when bruised, they have the smell of garlic, hence one of its old names was garlicke-sage. It is frequently used as a bitter drink, and is sometimes used instead of hops for brewing purposes. Sometimes we may find the tall Teazle (Dipsacus fullonum) spreading its tall stem and thistle-like heads on the woodland borders. Here, too, in Southern counties may be found the Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) in those thickets which fringe the chalk downs. It is a tall, bushy plant, much like in appearance the common Sun Spurge, so common in our gardens. The flowers are greenish, and in autumn the lobed seeds appear, which are supposed to be a substitute for the ordinary caper. They are, however, exceedingly noxious. The Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) is a much more pretty inhabitant of our woodlands. It is readily distinguished by its numerous ovate-lanceolate leaves of a sunny hue; but how or why its old name of "welcome-to-our-house" was obtained it is difficult to say.
The rare purple Helleborine (Epipactis latifolia) may be sought for in woods in hilly districts, and it is sometimes found in the Midland shires. Its broad egg shaped leaves, long lax raceme of purple flowers sometimes tinged with green, distinguish it. The "White Helleborine (E. grandiflora) also grows in woods on a chalky soil, but flowers as early as June.
Amongst the autumn plants in our woodlands is the Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula trachelium). Its leaves are much like those of the nettle, and its blue bells grow in a small cluster on a stem some two feet high. The Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Campanula hederacea) is a graceful plant with pale purplish-blue flowers, and the fruit is a globose capsule. The Giant Bellflower (C. latifolia) is common in the north, but in England it is local in its likings. It is easily known, as it grows two or three feet high, and is one of the most stately of our wild flowers. Its flowers in Scotland are often white.
Far more common is the tall and handsome Golden Rod (Solidago virgaurea), with its crowded clusters of bright flowers. The ray and disk both are bright yellow. In the days of the Virgin Queen the golden rod was imported from foreign countries, and its virtues as a medicinal herb highly extolled; but on its being discovered to be a native plant, its use and popularity declined. It begins to flower at midsummer, and does not cease to blow until the harsh October winds rustle its leaves and chill its bright flowers.
The red clustering berries of the Guelder Rose, the rose-tinted fruits of the Spindle tree, the hips and haws, the opaque red fruits of the Bryony, are plentiful now, as the yellow leaves of the maple and elm mingle with the coppery beech and russet brown of the oak and chestnut. The ash sometimes assumes the most lovely green tints during the autumn months. The red leaves of the bramble stretch through the yellow-green bracken, amongst which the conies peep in and out.