Searching for fall colors was our theme today. Nature was very cooperative. The air was crisp with just enough wind and sunny in the mid 60’s. When we started out there were 28 guests. As we walked along the trail past the edge of the woods we saw lots of color. There were all different shades of red from black cherry, sassafras, dogwood, and the tops of the devil’s walking stick and stems of the pokeberry.
The red color develops in the leaves when the green chlorophyll disappears after the leaf scar develops and this stops water from getting into the leaf and sugars from leaving. This sugar, in some leaves combines with a phytochemical and becomes an anthocyanin. The shade of red depends on genes and the acidity of the soil. One of the dogwood leaves was lying across another dogwood leaf and I showed the part that was covered and still had the green color. One of the theories for the red color is that it helps protect the plant from the harmful rays of too much sunlight. Indeed it seems that much of the red color in the woods was where we could see the sunlight touching the leaves.
At the bridge someone asked what a leaf scar was. This prompted a discussion on the fact that trees do lose their leaves and other plants die to the ground when there is no longer the ability to turn sunlight into energy for the plant. The shorter daylight hours starts this process. It is also influenced by moisture and many leaves dropped early this year due to the drought. I picked up a tulip tree leaf and showed where the leaf scar was at the end of the petiole. Many ephemerals die back when the tree canopy keeps sunlight from reaching them.
Further along on Blockston Branch trail we saw some red strawberry bush (heart’s a bursting) berries left on the bush. This bush had protection from some branches of the ironwood tree and the deer had not touched it. The deer’s sensitive nose does not like the twiggy branches of the ironwood tree. On the ground we spotted a clump of red berries from a jack in the pulpit.
A golden yellow stand of pawpaws further on the trail was awash in sunlight and since the green chlorophyll had disappeared the yellow color which was there all along is now apparent. The yellow pigment captures and converts sunlight similar to chlorophyll and is a silent partner not visible until now.
We took the trail past the downed tree clump and observed the huge opening in the canopy. At this spot in the trail there is a large group of beech drops that are now in brown seed and were a lovely rose purple earlier. A teacher guest asked about this parasitic fungus on beech tree roots and said she brings this information back to her fifth graders. Newcomb’s Wildflower guide is a good manual for identification info. We need more in the gift shop because we could not find any later.
Further along, we saw some more red color in some very tall tupelo trees that again had sunlight glinting off their red leaves. At the exit we observed some very red shining leaves of the winged sumac with its crop of red berries.
We came back to a delicious colorful lunch and a lovely dining room with lovely bouquets made by Mickey B. She had seeds of hearts a bursting available at each table and many took them home for planting. The sumac, winterberries, chokeberries, and groundsel bush were part of her attractive arrangements.
Lynda said it so nicely. Our Soup & Walk is unique and special. We have such a dedicated group of volunteers who make this an event to remember. Many of our guests keep returning but we had some new ones as well. The guests ranged from North Carolina, Washington DC, north of Baltimore, Easton and from Delaware. Our volunteers were Pat B, Mickey B, Norma E, Lynn L, Michele W, Zaida W, Shirley B and Julianna P.
This whole process starts with a newsletter with menus developed for the monthly walking tour attractions. Reservations are taken and followed up by our friendly staff. Caterer and volunteers are notified. Tables, chairs and other equipment are put in place. Emails and phone calls are used for notifying and last minute changes. Baking desserts and breads takes place and collecting material for flower arrangements. Once the day arrives, it is very organized. Pat at the front desk, Mickey and others decorating the tables, setting out the name tags, guides taking a prewalk. Finally starting the tour begins, while others make sure the soup is hot and all the food arranged in lovely fashion on white covered tables. The five round tables with their white tablecloths and a centerpiece and the smell of food are so inviting as we return from our tour. We eat a delicious lunch and I get to talk about the menu and its connection to our walk and nutrition. Finally the clean up in our tiny kitchen where Lynn and Michele have developed quite a system. Others clear tables bring things to where ever they are needed and the extra food goes home. A small bonus for all the loyal helpers. Thank you all. It takes everyone to make this work.