Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall ~ The late turners

The late turners ~ the beech trees, sweetgums and oaks ~ held onto their leaves through Sandy and have looked beautiful the past ten days.

Our farm was logged at some point over 30 years ago, and so we have a lot of fast-growing lowland pioneer trees: loblolly pines, tulip poplars, red maples, sweetgums, willow oaks, and river birches. The sweetgums always seem to be reliable in fall; they are less picky than their more flamboyant brethren the red maples and are beautiful in their own right, first turning gold and then adding red to appear orange, and finally a deep burgundy/ purple. They are the Joseph's coat of fall trees.

View of sweetgums from front porch

Next to the old house site

Sweet betsy and sweet gum

This being a mid-successional forest there are many small young beeches, oaks and
hickories in the understory, waiting their turn to dominate the forest. One of the
older youngsters near the old house site glows like a candle when it colors late in the fall.

I've always liked this oak at the edge of the neighbor's pasture. It's usually a rich rusty color
but is more of a pumpkin hue this year. It's a red oak of some sort, perhaps a cherrybark oak.

Willow oaks grow next to a couple of the pastures. They had some color this year, although their best year was after Fran in '99, when they turned a radiant golden yellow. Everything turned brilliant colors that year. The formula for a really good fall in this area seems to consist of a good amount of rainfall in September and early October followed by relatively dry and calm weather after mid to late October.

Even this sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) has turned yellow. It's tardily deciduous (meaning that it usually doesn't lose its leaves until late winter), and as I recall the leaves usually just turn a bright brown before dropping.

This has been a stellar year for the musclewoods (Carpinus caroliniana), aka ironwood aka American hornbeam. The young trees at the woods' edge have been spectacular cloaked in their yellows, reds, and oranges.

Although serviceberry is known for its beauty in the fall, our wild serviceberries usually prematurely lose their leaves to leaf spot. However, a serviceberry tucked in a semi-hidden spot surprised me ~ although not for the first time ~ with its beautiful bronzy golden and orange colors. I'm glad I saw this, for later that afternoon when I was hunting for young wax myrtles at the edge of our woods I was delighted to find a cluster of tiny serviceberry seedlings of that same golden hue. I potted them to grow up for a year before transplanting elsewhere. There are many treasures to be found near the edges of woods. I found a tiny dogwood seedling (which I left and need to feed so that it will grow and catch up with its parent) and I always see a lot of young blueberries and sweet pepperbush and cinnamon ferns.

This isn't even the end. The blueberries and swamp cyrillas (the very best of all, imo) are peaking just now. Many of the blueberries look like rubies and one of the cyrillas is as orange as a pumpkin. Another is as red as the blueberries.


  1. Gorgeous Fall pictures! This is my very favorite time of the year!

  2. lovely colors! Fall is all about yellows and reds. I love those huge trees, I can imagine how good must be to hear the wind among them.



  3. Gorgeous...I can never get enough of gorgeous fall photos :-)

  4. What interesting woods you have all around you, and I like seeing your colors now that ours are gone by. The sweetgums here hold leaves very late too, and are just now going. Like yours, they have a mix of wonderful colors all on one tree. And this is the first year my sweetbay magnolia has color --- some yellow mixed with a mahogany color, very nice (but not golden yellow all over like yours. What a beautifully shaped little tree yours is). I really enjoy these woodland tours around your property and pastures.

  5. Sweet gums are indeed the unsung hero of fall color around here, reliable in any year. What I like about them is the variability of color. I use to drive by one on the way to my old job that every fall turned the color of a dark port wine, while all the neighboring ones were a more typical yellow-orange.

  6. Although some of the trees you showed(Sweet gums, muscle woods aka ironwood aka American hornbeam,willow oak)don't grow here, I liked the color of their leaves, red-brown and light yellow. Pretty autumn pictures!

  7. Sweetbay,
    Great job on these wonderful photos! Guessing they'll all be leaf less pretty soon. We got our first hard freeze last night.

  8. As always, gorgeous! The view from your front porch is fabulous, and i love the way you caught the light radiating across the field.

  9. Wow, I really enjoyed this post. You live in such a beautiful place. How wonderful to be surrounded by pure, healthy woods that aren't choked with invasive species. . . . Reading, I really felt like I was there. I loved all your descriptions of the fall colors, the images of candles and rubies. . . .

  10. You live where the three months of fall, really are SB! Here we sometimes only get a month or so of fall before rolling over to winter. I love how much color you have left & how much there is still to come. Lucky you! Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving...

  11. You do have a lot of interesting fall colors. We just came back from Atlanta, and I was surprised to see that the leaves were still changing there.

  12. You have indeed saved the best for last--what a beautiful display of fall color! You have such a variety of different trees, too. We don't have many sweetgums around here, but they certainly are gorgeous.

  13. I was going to say we had similar woods, until I read your last sentence....Cyrilla?? I love them but as far as I know there are none in my area. Beautiful fall colors!!


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