October 17 Soup & Walk by Julianna Pax, volunteer

It poured all day Thursday, Friday and all last night. The temperature stayed in the forties. But the rain angels smiled on us and gave us a window of opportunity from 11 to 12 almost rain free and wind free!! We were looking for fall color and the color on a cloudy day is simply remarkable. We walked to the woods and admired the red colors along the edges from the black cherry, sweet gum, sassafras and dogwood. The shades varied from bright red to orange to a deep maroon. Once we entered the woods we found an abundance of yellow pawpaw leaves and summersweet along the trail. There were lots of yellow leaves from our tulip trees strewn on the path like a welcome mat.

We discussed the reasons for the disappearance of the green chlorophyll in the leaves. A scar tissue forms between the petiole and the stem which prevents water from reaching the leaf and as the raw materials are no longer available the plant does not waste energy making more new chlorophyll. The yellow and brown pigments were in the leaf all along but were masked by the green color and are now visible.

Another wonderful event takes place also. As the scar tissue forms, the sugar is not able to leave the leaf and combines with another compound in the leaf which then becomes the red color. This only happens if there is sugar present, enough sunlight reaching the leaves, and the leaf has the gene that makes this compound called anthocyanidin. So most of the red color is seen in only certain trees or shrubs along the edges of the path and in the woods where the upper canopy is more open.

Along the path we were delighted to see the many berries and capsules of the strawberry bush or hearts-a-bursting. The purple capsules and red berries were a curious combination. We paused to look at the flowing creek by the next bridge, talked about the riparian buffer and marveled over the red berries of the winterberry, also very attractive on this cloudy day.

The fallen tree next to the trail was another opportunity to talk about the changes that this may have on next spring’s wildflowers and the possibility of a path down to the uprooted part of the tree roots. This might be interesting to view monthly for changes. Fungi gave us another opportunity to talk about recycling.

As we left the woods, there was a wonderful view of orange sassafras leaves, maroon and yellow sweetgum, bright red sumac leaves and berries and a golden yellow tulip tree. It was starting to rain again and we hustled back for some soup, salad, bread, and dessert and even some hot refreshments.

There were 22 guests out of the 30 signed up. They did not call to say they were not coming. Mickey and Pat did a great job decorating our banquet room with colorful leaves, tablecloths and had all the food out and ready for us. Lynn helped with the setup and Margie, Norma J, Zaida and I did the tour. Lynn and Margie brought the delicious lemon apple tart bars. Thanks to all the volunteers and to Cathy, Buck and Paul for getting things ready. It could not be done without all this help. A new couple from Wilmington were very excited about their first visit here. They liked the nutrition part also and left with a copy of the cookbook and plans to come back.

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