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What are some brown things in nature?

What are some brown things in nature?

Brown is a very common color that can be found throughout the natural world. From tree trunks to rocks, animals to soil, many things in nature exhibit shades of brown. The presence of brown in nature comes from the chemical pigments melanin and tannin. Melanin gives brown color to skin, feathers, fur, and eyes. Tannin gives brown hues to trees, plants, and fallen leaves.


Tree trunks and branches are commonly brown due to their bark. Bark contains high levels of tannin, which provides its brown coloring. Many tree species have brown bark including:

  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Maple
  • Birch
  • Elm
  • Aspen
  • Sequoia
  • Cypress

During autumn, tree leaves turn shades of orange, red, and brown as chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are revealed. Fallen leaves that have dried out are often brown as well.


Wood from trees is made of cellulose and lignin, chemicals that give it a characteristic brown color. The natural brown hues of wood can range from pale beige to deep chocolate depending on the tree species. Some types of brown wood include:

  • Cedar – reddish brown
  • Oak – golden brown
  • Cherry – pinkish brown
  • Walnut – chocolate brown
  • Mahogany – reddish brown

When exposed to air and sunlight, wood develops an outer brown layer as the lignins undergo oxidation and polymerization. This is responsible for the weathered gray-brown appearance of old wood.


Many animals exhibit brown coloring either in patches or over their entire bodies. This is produced by melanin pigments within skin cells, hair, and feathers. Some examples of brown animals include:

  • Bears
  • Deer
  • Moose
  • Beavers
  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Mice
  • Hedgehogs
  • Cows
  • Horses
  • Pigs
  • Monkeys
  • Birds like sparrows, eagles, hawks

The brown fur and feathers provides camouflage for many mammals and birds in their natural habitat. Brown skin is also effective at blocking UV radiation from the sun.


A variety of insects display shades of brown including:

  • Cockroaches
  • Crickets
  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Grasshoppers
  • Termites
  • Bees
  • Dragonflies
  • Butterflies
  • Moths

The browns, tans, and blacks help insects camouflage with soil, bark, and plant matter to avoid predators. Their small size also makes brown an effective defensive coloration.


Soil consists of minerals, organic matter, air, water, and billions of organisms. It exhibits a range of brown hues based on its composition. Rich, fertile soil with lots of organic material tends to be dark brown or black. Mineral soils are more tan or beige. The brown color comes from:

  • Humus – decomposed organic material
  • Clay particles
  • Iron and aluminum oxides

Wet soils appear darker brown due to water filling spaces between soil particles. Dry soils look lighter brown as water evaporates.

Rocks and Minerals

Many types of rocks and minerals are shades of brown. Iron oxides give brownish pigments to certain rocks and deposits. Some examples include:

  • Sandstone – Beige, tan, yellowish brown
  • Granite – Grayish brown
  • Shale – Dark brown, black
  • Limonite – Yellowish brown mineral
  • Siderite – Brownish mineral
  • Desert rocks – Tans, browns

The browns help these rocks and minerals blend into natural earthen environments. Rusting of iron-rich minerals leads to reddish-brown stains and deposits as well.

Seeds and Nuts

The outer seed coat and shells of many nuts and seeds are brown in color. Some examples include:

  • Acorns
  • Chestnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Coconuts
  • Cocoa beans
  • Coffee beans

The brown exterior helps protect the seeds and nuts from damage. It comes from polymers, waxes, and tannins in the outer coatings.


Many species of fungi and mushrooms exhibit shades of brown in their fruiting bodies and caps. Brown Mushrooms include:

  • Porcini
  • Morel
  • Cremini
  • Portobello
  • Brown beech
  • Shaggy mane
  • Maitake

The brown colors are formed by melanin pigments in the fungal tissue. They help the reproductive structures resist damage from sunlight.


Brown is an abundant color in nature that serves many important functions. It provides camouflage, protection from radiation, structural support, and reproductive capabilities for living organisms. The browns, tans, and beiges of soil, rocks, and minerals help blend into the natural earthen hues of terrestrial habitats. Whether it occurs in animals, plants, or inorganic matter, the myriad shades of brown are key components of ecosystems around the world.