Turns out a popular type of leaf ground cover is nothing more than filler in the birch tree seed pod. An article on the Reaper forums provides a summary of how to preserve and color the leaves. I was fortunate enough to find a cluster of these birch trees in a local park (apparently they are quite rare in the Chicago region). The time to harvest the seed pods is now; one week ago the pods were green on the branch, today the pods are dry and releasing on the wind – one good storm and the season will be over. To look for these trees in your area, look for the paper like bark on the trunk.
First efforts with the leaf litter return so-so results. The “leaves” are a bit big for scale & a little difficult to paint. Excuse the bright green, I need to find a better color for the next project. This example was painted after application – perhaps next time I’ll follow the recommendations on the Reaper forums and pre-color the leaves.