I have made it my goal to find and visit every park in my area. To start, I pulled up my town on Google Maps, and looked for areas marked in green. And guess what? My town has a State Forest!
I didn't get very far before I spotted this amazing pink cluster. This appears to be pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys, a member of the Indian pipe family. It looks just like Indian pipe, in fact, except that each stem has multiple flowers, and the plant is bright pink.
This plant is native to most of the continent, but is rather rare, as well as being difficult to find, because for most of the year it lives entirely below ground. Like Indian pipe, it gets its energy from a parasitic relationship with a fungus.
I'm still rather a poor photographer, even with a tripod. So, this is a blurry example of the plant when it first emerges from the leaf duff.
My god they're beautiful.
Other plants I spotted beneath the forest canopy included Indian pipe, sassafras, sasparilla, striped wintergreen, poison ivy, club moss, and this:
This time, I know for sure I've found Indian cucumber root, Medeola virginiana!
As I learned from my previous incorrect identification, there is a similar plant called starflower that looks like the lower tier of this plant. However, there is no mistaking the top trio of leaves with those googly-eye berries.
The root of this native plant is edible, but small, and harvesting it of course kills the whole plant. I saw perhaps fifty of them growing along one short section of trail, and I could easily imagine that patch eradicated by one person harvesting enough roots for one meal. This plant is quite rare now, from what I understand.
This googly-eyed mutant had a small fourth leaf on its upper tier.