Where I live, autumn typically starts in late August, when pockets of red maples start to turn scarlet around the marshes and lakes. Uh oh. As they say in Westeros, “winter is coming.”
But not before we get to enjoy fall. Yes, a Northeastern autumn is a postcard cliché. Yes, the tour buses and land yachts full of leaf peepers clog the roads. But, really, who can blame them? No matter how many you’ve seen, fall in the Northeast is still one of nature’s most awesome spectacles.
We need to figure out how to put Amazon in charge of delivering the weather in the future. Whatever service Ma Nature is using seems to be falling down on the job lately. I don’t believe she intended to give us a record-setting wet summer; I just think all the good weather probably got misplaced on a loading dock in Topeka, or something like that. The spate of mild sunny weather in mid-September, while very enjoyable, was clearly meant to be dispersed over the course of June and July to break up the nonstop rain, some of which was no doubt tagged for 2016. I’d be willing to pay a premium for timely delivery next year.
In addition to widespread euphoria, dusty cars, and dry laundry, another effect of all this sunshine is red leaves. This requires a bit of explanation, given that sunlight typically makes leaves green by activating chlorophyll. This verdant molecule at the center of the photosynthesis miracle is what makes the world go ’round. Some claim it is money, but they need a reality check (so to speak). Without chlorophyll the sole life on Earth would be bacteria, whereas without money we’d merely have to adopt a barter system. Given that chlorophyll and currency are both green, it’s easy to forgive the mistake. » Continue Reading.
By December, foliage season is long over for us humans, but it’s peak season under the water. Last month, fallen leaves accumulated in our streams and rivers, starting a process that’s critical for the nourishment of everything from caddisflies on up the food chain to eagles and even people. In fact, most of the Northeast stream food supply originates in the form of fallen leaves.
The bright yellow and red piles that accumulate on river rocks and fallen branches are not nearly ready for consumption by discerning invertebrates. The witch’s brew of natural chemical compounds that discourages insects from eating green leaves on trees, can be just as repellent to creatures that scavenge freshly fallen leaves under water. First, cold water must leach out those chemicals. Imagine the process as soaking and re-soaking a teabag. During this period, the leaves are also colonized by microscopic organisms. For a hungry invertebrate, the cleansed layered leaves, covered in fungi, bacteria, and algae, make a sandwich Dagwood could be proud. » Continue Reading.
As a wee lad I was told a story wherein the bright summer sun would bleach pigment from clothes hung on the line, and save up the colors to paint on autumn leaves. Thinking back on that yarn it occurs to me that solar dryers (a.k.a. laundry lines) and fall leaf color change are similar in how they operate. They’re both elegant and cost-free, but their performance depends on the weather. » Continue Reading.
If trees held a race to see which would be among the first to have their leaves turn color, the winners would be losers. Premature leaf color change is a reliable indicator of failing health, and the worse a tree’s condition, the sooner it begins to turn.
Precious few places in the world have a fall color show like ours, and the display that northern hardwoods produce each autumn never fails to fill me with awe and appreciation. But when it starts in July, as was the case again this year on some roadside maples, I know those trees aren’t long for this world. In early August even some forest hardwoods growing on thin rocky soils began to show color, which is also unusual. » Continue Reading.
The fall foliage in the High Peaks region is just past peak color. Reds are turning to browns and leaves are starting to fall around Heart Lake. It is still a beautiful time to view fall colors in the area, but the vibrant reds and oranges that were present in the High Peaks last week seem to be fading. Lower elevations and points south may be better if you want to view peak foliage.