A Not So Colorful Autumn So Far

by Curt Kovener 

The fall colors are subdued and sporadic in the wilderness. Maples and oaks are still vibrantly green while dogwoods are their traditional dusty reddish-orange. The dogwoods are unique as they have set buds for next spring’s floral display while still having this year’s pollinated flowers setting a brilliant red seed.

The black gum tree leaves have already turned red and have dropped to the ground. The state tree-tulip or yellow poplar- is its traditional yellow hue tinged with brown. But there are smaller dead branches throughout the trees owing possibly to the life sucking poplar scale insect of last year and the stress of the 2012 drought.

There is a good crop of acorns on the oaks this season which squirrels, deer and turkey no doubt already discovered. The turkeys seemed to have proliferated this year as a flock of eight peck their way across the dam in search of grains, seeds, and insects.

The squirrels, particularly the gray squirrels, are in abundance. Last week after gathering some large hickory nuts from my not-so-secret river bottoms honey hole, I made the mistake of leaving the bucket on the front porch. Saturday morning I heard a rummaging on the porch and looked out just in time to see a fox squirrel scamper across the drive with one of the larger nuts firmly clenched in his mouth. The bucket then was moved into the house.

Stick tights are in abundance this year also. An observation I made after Charley the Lab returned from his circuitous trail hikes.

And this is the season for spider webs throughout the woodland. Walk in the afternoon and I seem to find the invisible strands with my face. Walk shortly after sun-up and the morning dew makes their bejeweled webs gleam. And it astounds me just how many spiders there are in the woods.

We had more than adequate rainfall this spring that replenished the groundwater and the wilderness lake level. But a late July to nearly September dry spell may be the answer for this season’s subdued and sporadic fall color.