Don’t let the warm days fool you and take the calendar date with a grain of salt. Summer is over. The Almighty has commissioned a change in the season. I have seen it with my own eyes. I’m speaking of my natural calendar. For me Fall is when the leaves change color. The Yellow Poplar is among the first to change. Even with the long dry spell that we’ve had the leaves turn from a rich green to a cheerful yellow. A lot of people think that the color comes from cool weather but it’s actually in response to the wavelength of the light coming from the sun. Plants are vreally very efficient. The green chlorophyll is only able to use certain wavelengths of light and when those wavelengths are no longer available the chlorophyll dyes and the green goes away. The other colors were always there but they were covered by the green. The yellow color comes from Xanthophyll and the reds from Rodophyll. The tree is still processing sunlight into sugar and will continue to do so until the leaves drop. But the green is no longer needed so there’s no sense in maintaining those cells. Different types of trees have different llevels of the yellow and green pigments and so we get the beautiful mice of colors in the Appalachian Mountains.
At the first sign of changing leaves I start to crave the taste of homemade beef stew that’s been simmering on a woodstove all day. I have already been looking for my favorite oversized flannel shirt and have my boots ready for long walks through open forests. During the summer months the underbrush is likely to be hiding a venomous snake in my area so I get the most use of the trails in cool weather.
The big question this year is will we get to enjoy the Fall colors or will the dry weather drive the forest into an early dormancy. If the tree can’t get enough water to make sugar then it doesn’t need the leaves and shuts down until Spring.
The pop of yellow in this clump of trees does give me hope that we’ll see a beautiful and colorful Fall if it rains soon.
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