The color dramatically changed just this past week. I know because we drove to Florida on Sunday and Monday and came back on Wednesday and Thursday, October 31. The colors were there on the way down but were magnified many times on the way back. On Saturday, November 2, the weather was sunny and in the low 70s. Friday was stormy and rainy, and by Sunday the weather had turned blustery and cold, so we lucked out again.
There were 20 paid guests, mostly members, and one non-member joined as she left and said she would be back soon. Many were regulars at our Soup ‘n Walks, which will start again on February 22, 2014. See you then.
Here are thoughts from Mary Jo, who led one group of guests:
“My group on the Soup ‘n Walk tour Saturday consisted of returning veterans who were interested in a leisurely stroll, looking and taking pictures of the many and varied colors of the fall forest. All were struck by the incredible maroon beauty of the dogwood at the entrance, the yellow of the paw paws, how much browner the Blockston Branch looked, and how much fun it was to swish through the leaves.
There was a lot of discussion about the new openings in the tree canopies and how we could already see differences in the understories where those canopies have let in the sunlight. The euonymus still shone brightly, and Zaida spotted a wintergreen peeping out from the lycopodium. As we left the forest, the sumac was a fiery red in front of the golden meadow. This was not a walk of new discoveries but one of savoring the colors from our old friends on the Blockston Branch.”
I led the other group. Red color dominated at the Arboretum, and we saw shining red sumac leaves and berries, deep red dogwood leaves and berries, all shades of red from orange to maroon on the sweet gum and red berries on the hearts-a-bursting. Red color is found in the petioles of the red swamp maple and stalks of the sassafras drupes, devil’s walking stick, and pokeberry bushes. Oak leaves were red and brown, with very few acorns showing this year. Last year they were all over.
Yellow color was dazzling in the sunlight. We looked up at the edge of the woods and saw the yellow in the tall tulip tree. Later someone pointed up at the bright yellow hickory leaves against a very blue sky. The spice bush managed to have the sun shining on it as we went by and it was showing off its yellow leaves. Beech leaves were yellow with streaks of green still showing and brown beginning to appear. Paw paw leaves were in their golden yellow mode and we mentioned the zebra swallowtail butterflies that frequent them when they are green. We have some pictures of spice bush caterpillars that have different looks from Nancy B. One looks like bird droppings!
Green contrast helped showcase the colors and was provided by the pine, cedar, and juniper needles. One guest who was in the master naturalist class called our attention to her spot in the woods. Lo and behold, she spotted one of the early, early skunk cabbages poking its way through the leaf carpet by Blockston Branch!
We talked about the leaf scar that forms when the daylight gets shorter and the temperature drops. This stops the flow of traffic and keeps the sugar in the leaf and stops nutrients from coming into the leaf. Then, if the leaf was exposed to sunlight during its growing season, and if it has the genes for it, it can form the anthocyanidins than combine with the sugar to form the red anthocyanin colors. The anthocyanidins are thought to protect the leaves from UV light. The yellow color is in the leaves all the time but is only evident when the green chlorophyll disappears. The brown color is from the tannic acid, a byproduct of metabolism in the leaves. This dark color, as well as the silver insides, made the milkweed pods dazzle in the sunlight.
We were hungry when we got back and were treated to a lovely decorated lunch room. More color from sumac, beech leaves, blue aster, etc. all in lovely arrangements by Nancy B. Volunteers had arranged the room and served the hot spicy sweet potato soup, colorful chopped vegetable salad, brown rice, green pea, and red pepper salad, all followed by quinoa pudding with a red cranberry apple topping. The gluten-free recipes were available to all, and we talked about the colorful nutrients found in the foods that are so good for us.
Thanks to all the volunteers who helped set up and clean up: Lynn L. (also brought dessert), Pat R., Shirley B., Zaida W., Pat B., Mary Jo K., and Nancy B. Also thanks to the staff, who helped take reservations and set up the equipment and tables and chairs. We couldn’t have this wonderful arboretum experience without all the many hours work of volunteers and staff.
by Julianna Pax
Arboretum docent naturalist