My mountain… note leafless birches etc in front
Looking towards my brook in the rain…
Last night I had a dream that the season was coming to an end. In the vignette I am looking in my wheat colored garden and queen anne’s lace, once a lovely pearl white wild flower has fallen over, her bird’s nest, full of fuzzy brown seeds scattering on the ground.
Indeed with dark cloudy mornings keeping us in bed until 7 or 8 AM my dogs, bird, and I are adjusting to this change of seasons that descends upon us so quickly in Maine. There is a brief period of stunning colbalt blue skies and the hint of changing color that occurs around the end of August into mid September but rapidly fades into deep autumn shadows after the equinox and the encroaching darkness that defines a Maine fall.
In just the last two two days the landscape has shifted from dull lifeless dry and diseased trees to a riot of color. I had no intention of missing the beauty that Nature offers so graciously for a few brief moments in time. So, yesterday, although it was cloudy, I took what has become an annual meander, walking through the woods and trails around my house and forest to enjoy the foliage that is peaking now because all the maples have caught fire, or have lemony yellow or sunset orange leaves that provide a brilliant contrast to dark green heavily pine – coned conifers.
This intentional cyclic fall meander, never a hike, allows me to focus on the maple colors that move me the most, those that are framed by a blue or gray sky – maples are my favorite fall trees! And yet, I have taken them for granted too because I thought red maples would always be around, and now they are succumbing to disease. I didn’t realize until I researched them this morning that the swamp maples that dropped their unnaturally curled dead leaves prematurely in early September were the same species as the red maple that is flaming on the mountains today. Red maples may be softer wood but are such adaptable trees growing in both wet and dry areas.
This year especially, I am astonished and grateful that the rest of the maples are dressed so brilliantly because we are deep into years of drought. It was eerie as well as depressing to witness so many diseased leaves drift to the ground early in September. Many maples have been bare for a month or more.
But the ones that are hanging on are heralding the change of seasons speaking through vibrant color. Of course, the birch, beech, wild cherry, poplar, alders, and oak (that haven’t already dropped their leaves due to drought), will add shades of the palest yellow, ochre, and various hues of brown to the mix at the “peak” of fall color which according to weather sources hasn’t arrived yet.
In this area we have red maples, sugar maples, silver maples, and moose or striped maples (as well as some ornamentals). All of the above belong to the family Aceraceae but we also must include the Norway maple that originally was introduced from Europe but has established itself here. Crimson king, with its deep maroon leaves is a popular species, but others resemble both the sugar and red maples except that their leaves are more golden in color, not the brilliant oranges, scarlet, crimson, typical colors of the red and sugar maples. The silver maple is found along riparian wetlands and the rivers. This tree with its deeply toothed leaves turns pale yellow. Moose maple hugs the lowlands, a small under – story tree whose giant leaves turn sunshine gold, literally lighting up the forest.
This morning it is raining for the first time in two months – a light rain that makes the still green leaves of my apple tree shimmer creating a mirror like effect. A host of sugar, Norway, moose, and red maples can be seen from any of my windows; their colors are spectacular – each leaf has different hues woven into a unique pattern, and yet the leaves of all the maples share similarities.
Simply gazing out my windows is a source of ongoing wonder to a naturalist like me.