Northland Nature: Red leaves persist in fall
Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at email@example.com.
Early November is a time of “AutWin”: after the leaves have dropped from the trees and before we have a snowfall that covers these same leaves. This autumn interlude varies in how long it will last, but nearly always early November is part of this seasonal gap.
This is also a time of late migrants in the region. Some of these — redpolls, pine grosbeaks, crossbills and snow buntings — are late to arrive here, but may be staying for weeks, perhaps even for the entire winter.
Among the raptors, bald eagles, rough-legged hawks and goshawks are now passing through. The leaf drop allows us to see this movement better, as well as other nature happenings.
Though the bulk of the leaves from deciduous trees have fallen in October, there still are those that linger into this month. Most notably are the yellow-gold needles of tamaracks, out in the swamps and bogs. Their needles are falling and soon these conifers will be as bare as the deciduous trees, but in early November, some still hold the gold.
Also, a few other trees continue to be with leaves. While driving in the region lately, I saw plenty of yellow leaves on aspens and willows in the swamps. In yards, domestic poplars, weeping willows and silver maples held leaves. Non-native plants, such as mountain-ash, apples, lilacs, forsythia, Siberian-pea and buckthorn, are still green.
MORE BY LARRY WEBER:
Northland Nature: Opportunistic asters grow post-storm Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northland Nature: Showy goldenrod brightens autumn Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at email@example.com.
Northland Nature: A walk through a dewy field
Along roadsides, yellow was apparent in reed canary grasses and asparagus. Some late-blooming wildflowers — aster, tansy, sow-thistle, fleabane, sweetclover and yarrow — were seen at these sunlit sites.
Within the woods of AutWin, much more can be found. This is the time to note the greens of mosses, clubmosses, ferns and lichens before the forest floor will be covered by the impending snowfalls. Also, plenty of fungi — puffballs and shelf fungi — are visible, too, on logs and tree trunks. But as I wandered among these green plants and gray fungi, I noticed that there were reds in the woods as well.
Though the colors were bright, this foliage was easy to overlook since most of the plants were small. I found about a dozen kinds with red leaves during this AutWin walk. Only arrowwoods, dogwoods, hazels and sumacs were taller than me; most of these plants were less than a few feet.
Very young red oaks and red maples held red leaves on their one-foot frames. Bunchberry and strawberry, even smaller, were also red. At the woods edge, raspberry, blackberry, bush-honeysuckle and roses all blushed with scarlet foliage. But it was the red-leafed blueberries that were the most numerous.
We are all familiar with blueberries in the Northland. As small woody plants, they survive the winter and in spring open their bell-shaped white flowers. After pollination, they develop the berries that many wildlife, including us, find so attractive in midsummer. With the passing of the tasty berries, we mostly forget these low plants.
But now, after the taller trees have shed leaves, sunlight penetrates on these clear and often sunlit days. And these small plants develop their red leaves in autumn. The anthocyanin pigments within the leaves serve to protect other leaf cells from excessive sunlight.
As I walked the woods, I was amazed at how many blueberry plants were here, all with red leaves. I don’t remember seeing that many green plants at this site in the summer. I plan to remember these locations.
Most of the autumn leaves and leaf colors are gone, but blueberries and some other small plants wait until AutWin to show.