in Thoreau’s Journal:
How sweet is the perception of a new natural fact! ––suggesting what worlds remain to be unveiled. That phenomena of the Andromeda seen against the sun cheers me exceedingly. When the phenomenon was not observed––it was not-at all. I think that no man ever takes an original or detects a principle without experiencing an inexpressible as quite infinite & sane pleasure which advertises him of the dignity of that truth he has perceived.
The thing that pleases me most within these three days is the discovery of the Andromeda phenomenon –– It makes all those parts of the country where it grows more attractive & elysian to me. It is a natural magic. These little leaves are the stained windows in the cathedral of my world. At the sight of any redness I am excited like a cow….
[Thoreau’s observation recorded on April 17, 1852: Observed in the 2nd of the chain of ponds between Fair Haven & Walden a large (for the pond) island patch of the dwarf Andromeda––I sitting on the east bank–– Its fine brownish red color very agreeable & memorable to behold. In the last long pond looking at it from the south––I saw it filled with a slightly grayish shrub which I took for the sweet gale––but when I had got round to the east side chancing to turn round I was surprised to see that all this pond hole also was filled with the same warm brownish red colored Andromeda. The fact was I was opposite to the sun––but from every other other position I saw only the sun reflected from the surface of the Andromeda leaves––which gave the whole a grayish brown hue tinged with red––but from this position alone I saw as it were through the leaves which the opposite sun lit up––giving to the whole this charming warm which I call Indian red color–– ––the mellowest the ripest-red imbrowned color––but when I looked to the right of left i.e. N or S the more the swamp had the mottled light or grayish aspect––when the light was reflected from the surfaces of the leaves–– And afterward when I had risen higher up the hill though still opposite the sun––the light came reflected upward from the surfaces & I lost that warm rich-red tinge––surpassing cathedral windows.
Let me look again at a different hour of the day & see if it is really so. It is a very interesting piece of magic. It is the autumnal tints in spring only more subdued & mellow–– These leaves are so slow to decay.
[I’m not sure if this photo is of Andromeda? But the effect described by Thoreau is present.]