Low sunlight paints the sallow earth. The trees and bushes scrape, bare, against the wind. Before winter solstice pulls the sun back to us, we are stuck in the unraveling. Long nights. Rain against moss. Cloud-muffled starlight.
Here in Oregon, winter is green, brown, and gray. That makes it fun to seek out the brightest colors on the darkest of days. Here are some pops of red that I look for in Oregon's fields and forests:
Highbush Cranberry - Viburnum edule
These are some of the only red berries you'll see in winter! Highbush cranberry grows in riparian areas and moist forest thickets. The berries are at their prime in late summer, and can be boiled down, sweetened, and used for jams. By winter, the musty, lingering berries are only palatable to birds.
Hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna
It may be a non-native shrub, but hawthorn is charming nonetheless. I often see it growing around suburban neighborhoods, or in groves out in the countryside. Like highbush cranberry, hawthorn's berries stay red well into winter, and the birds love them. Hawthorn berries also have many medicinal uses; they can be made into teas or tinctures and used to relieve anxiety and improve blood circulation.
Red-Osier Dogwood - Cornus stolonifera
If you see red stems near water in winter, it's very likely red-osier dogwood! Even without its leaves and flowers, red-osier dogwood is beautiful. Its stems add instant color to a winter forest. Sometimes they are almost a dark purple, while, other times, they burst forth in a bright, shocking red. Deer and elk love to munch on red-osier dogwood as part of their winter forage.