Leaves, with leaf bud sticking out from the middle.
Those are some big leaves!
The leaves were easily as long as my entire forearm, including my hand.
Looking up at some Bigleaf Magnolia leaves. This photo does not justice to their size.
The leaves can get as large as 30 inches! These understory trees put out magnificent blooms in June or July, and it's a shame we had missed them by a few months. Between the magnolias and the many rhododendrens that were around, I would imagine spring and summer to be a time of magnificent flowering in this area!
So anyway, once I found out the identity of the tree, I was happy enough, and considered the case closed. Until we got home, that is.
You see, during one of our hikes we came across an interesting piece of plant matter that I thought might actually be a mushroom of some sort.
Looks kind of like an artichoke, huh? I did a search for "artichoke mushroom" on Google, which only lead me to some recipe sites. Then I tried "artichoke fungus," and still no luck. After several more failed search attempts, I eventually stumbled upon a site that showed me that this was not a mushroom at all, but the shriveled fruit "spike" (cone, actually, just like a pine cone) of... the Bigleaf Magnolia tree. Aha!
Seeing this particular decaying Bigleaf Magnolia cone really made me think it was some sort of fungus.
Bigleaf Magnolia cone, aptly laying on a Bigleaf Magnolia leaf on the forest floor.
I love it when things come together like this. It took me quite a while to relocate the site that led me to this knowledge (no, I didn't bookmark it!): it was MushroomExpert.com, a site that certainly warrants more study on my part.