Forests in Fall

Forests in Fall are amazing places and recently, I found myself them observing one up close and personal when walking through one of many local conservation areas near my cottage. The air was crisp, the sun quite warm, and there were countless birds chirping and flitting from tree to tree. While most of the forest floor was carpeted with thousands of dry, deciduous tree leaves  the air was frequently filled with the scent of pine from the tall white and red pine overhead.

 

 

Beneath the towering trees, while shuffling my feet through the leaves, I began to notice native plants still thriving despite the mid-November weather. In this area, zoned climate region 5A, with nights recently below -4 ? Celsius and current daytime temperatures this weekend up to 11?, it seems native plants are definitely heartier  than I realized.

Carolinian Forest Native Plants

There are many locations of Carolinian Forests in South Western Ontario. Previously I have written in detail of Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island (Pelee Island blog August 2012) as l provided information on other locations as well as plants that are native to this eco vegetation area. However, I had no idea of exactly how hardy these plants could be until I witnessed their vigorous state just today.

In fact forests in fall can contain a wide variety of plants still splendid in green. On my recent walk I noticed, a few Golden Rod plants in bloom, dandelions and even a milkweed pod just beginning to burst.

 

 

 

 

Most of the black, pin and giant oak trees as well as the poplar had shed their now brown leaves. The white, red, and scotch pines waved their deep green needles back and forth in the wind, while sending a small cascade of dry needles and pinecones to the ground below.

fallen pine needles

fallen pine needles

 

Also helping these needles and their cones fall to the ground also were a wide variety of aviary creatures…birds of all sizes and colours. In fact, there were many tiny sparrows and chickadees flying from branch to branch with such speed that glances were a treat and photos were almost an impossibility!

Thankfully the native plants below were just waving in the wind, waiting to be noticed. Throughout the mounds of brown crunchy leaves in this primarily oak forest, there were native ferns with deep, rich, healthy green frons. Occasionally there were the tiny, green lobbed leaves of the Hepatica Americana plant, sticking out from the sloped banks above the walking trails that extended many kilometres through this county park.

Native Americana Hepatica

native fern in November

 

 

Nature in Harmony

Nature works in harmony with itself, when man does not interfere, which is evident as see by trees, helping everything for purifying the air to providing homes and food for living things of all sizes.

Hearty plants are aided by natural windbreaks and mulch. Full evergreens change the flow of cool winds that blow through all forests in fall by diverting it around the trunks directly and through the branches and needles as well.  Deciduous tree also diver the strong breezes as some of them in this conservation area where I walked, are up to three meters around.

On the ground, below these trees, the thick leave layer provides insulation to plants there like a multilayered blanket. This layer also provides a moisture barrier for worms and other insects as well, as countless bacteria and fungi that do most of the work in breaking down the organic matter of forests in fall.

Soil microorganisms mineralize or chemically convert organic compounds in to simpler forms, once the fungus family have begun the process of what is known as mineralization. Mineralisation is the biological process in which organic compounds are chemically converted to other simpler organic compounds or inorganic forms, such as carbon, ammonium or phosphate,  which are basic elements required for plant growth.

Mushrooms and toadstools

Regardless of the time of year, woodlands have trees and plant life in various stages of decomposition.  In fact, my walk through the Backus Conservation Area forests in the fall, revealed logs rotting away everywhere. These natural sources of compost eventually break down completely and add to the soil levels of the forest floor.

Before that happens, the breakdown delivers nutrients to local plants through the surrounding soil as well as to the parasitic plant forms that grown on the decaying wood. Many varieties of mushroom and other fungi were thriving well in the in the grown in the damp, shady areas on the forest floor, despite the colder November temperatures. On my walk I found many such life forms whose colour and variety were amazing.

 

 

 

After further investigation, I discovered that toadstools are not an official plant genus or species, but are part of the Kingdom of Fungi. As with all Kingdoms, this one has many Family, Genus and Species, which include mushrooms, mold, yeast, lichen, rust and truffles.

Fungi Kingdom

Forests in the fall contain many fine examples of this Kingdom as I witnessed firsthand on my walk. There were mushrooms that grew directly out of the rotting wood while others had stems. In addition to the interesting shapes the colour range was amazing as I noticed green scaly mushrooms and large almost flowery looking orange ones that looked like some alien flower species.

 

 

These wildly coloured and unusually shaped living things where but the tip of a huge subject that now intrigues me. In fact, off I go to research the fascinating subject of Fungi. After all, Mother nature’s gardens are certainly inspiring…especially forests in fall!

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn is a wonderfully colourful time of year that is enjoyed by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. From the tall stands of drying grasses, to the late blooming perennials, there are subtle earth tones to the bright and bold shades. Certainly in Ontario, Canada where I call home, even the trees shout out their presence.  Each limb is full of coloured leaves that put on quite a show before they drop to the ground, hence the term fall.

Recently, watching the neighbours piling theirs along the curb to be sucked up and taken away, I was wondering about the countless others who were doing the same, or merely admiring the colours of fall. Either way we all know that colder weather is coming. For gardeners the temperature change also means it is time to put the gardens to rest with winter protection of some sort.

 

 

What to do with all those leaves?

Speaking for myself, I leave my leaves alone.  Of course with seven tall evergreens on my property, only the wind delivers them from the gardens around me. In fact if I rake at all, it is to put a layer on my garden with evergreen boughs on top to hold the leaves in place for additional protection. Despite this being my ritual, gardening sources present two different viewpoints about using leaves for winter garden protection.

 

Some believe any disease on the leaves will transfer to the soil and plants that will grow there in the spring, while others believe they will help provide a more even temperature throughout the winter and keep   strong winter winds from drying out the soil. The one thing both schools of thought share is that oak leaves break down very slowly and are best left off gardens and out of any compost pile.

 

Compost

 

 

Speaking of mulch, I think it is very nice of my neighbours to rake up their leaves nicely, for me to mulch. I do not compost them but neatly transfer those soggy leaves in to green garbage bags and put them on my back patio in a sunny spot. Quite by accident (or should I say laziness) I left several bags over the winter until early summer and discovered they had mulched quite nicely. The sun’s rays and the dark plastic helped the damp leaves form lovely rich compost.

 

What a gorgeous view!

Putting all uses aside, today seeing trees full of coloured leaves, the yellows through to red shades, mixed with each other, certainly made me wonder why and how they change to such magnificent shades. Again, I resorted to my gardening books and the internet to find the facts I probably learned many years ago in school and have since forgotten. Fall splendor is nothing more than good, old fashioned chemistry, whether here or on the other side of the world. Yes, the Northern Hemisphere worldwide gets to share in the lovely Fall or Autumn leaf colour changes from September through to late November.

 

 

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a term most of us learned in school, from the Greek words  “photo” or light and “synthesis “which means putting together. This process, describes how most plants and trees make food for themselves. Like many other scientific processes, it is complicated when studied in depth, but has quite a simple explanation. Water in by the roots,  plus Carbon Dioxide from our air are the basics need for sunlight  and the green chlorophyll in leaves , to form two major compounds.

 

The first is oxygen which is given off and purifies the air around us, and the second is Glucose. Yes my dear, leaves produce glucose for immediate use as energy and some is stored for later use. Of course unlike in humans, the storage is beneficial and does not increase pants size or cause health issues.

 

Instead the stores are used once the September equinox arrives and the weather changes. While temperature is a factor in slowing photosynthesis, the decreased amount of UV in the suns rays shuts off the green chlorophylls food making ability. Then the stored glucose which is trapped in the leaves begins to turn red. Also now visible are orange carotenes and yellow xanthophylls which were hidden by the green.

 

Colour guide

Certainly leaf colour cannot by itself be a guide to trees but if you are looking for a tree that produces a specific colour palette in the fall, here is a general guideline. Of course checking with a local nursery would certainly help or finding a good sourcebook or on line.

Red Leaf colour

Red Maple trees are known to produce the brightest red leaves, as does the shrub called the Burning Bush.  Additionally a few other maples  including Japanese,  turn a lovely shade of red, as do some oaks such as Red, Pin and Scarlet, Dogwood, Sassafras and Sweetgum to name a few. Let’s not forget the Japanese maple!

 

Sumac changing colour

Yellow and orange Leaf colour

Some of the trees known for yellow and orange leaves are Hickory, Ash, and some Maples, Poplar, Tulip Tree, White Oak, a number of Japanese Maples and Chestnut. Also some Sassafras, Sweetgum, Beech, Birch and Sycamore foliage changes to lovely golden hues tones between the yellow and orange shades.

 

Maple in Transition

 

Season Science

Gardeners always find something to do each season and as we are not weather persons, I will not try and be one now. However, not until the digging bug better known as curiosity, picked at my brain again, did I really think  how Geography of about Equinox, Hemispheres and latitude.

Equinox

Equinox from Latin “aequus” or equal and “nox” which is night is the day in September when the Northern Hemisphere, or half of the Earth, has equal hours of day and night. As the planet we call home, shifts while it spins, we in the northern side get tilted back from the sun’s rays while the south moves forward for more. This means the Southern Hemisphere is planning and planting their vegetable gardens while we are putting ours to sleep.

 

Equinox

 

 

Hemispheres

Hemisphere comes from two very long Ancient Greek words that translate to mean “half of a sphere. Here on the earth using latitude or longitude (north to south division) there are four map based hemispheres.  The North-South the division is the equator and East-West the dividing line is the prime meridian

 

Northern Hemisphere

 

 

Latitude Travels

Combining fall experiences from across the world would be interesting but staggering by volume. Instead, I remembered my globe and decided to follow the approximate latitude of Ontario, Canada to find out what Fall looks like around the world. Latitude is the system of parallel lines that are used to mark a position on the planet, from east to west with the Equator being Zero degrees and the North or South Pole being Ninety degrees.

 

Latitude

 

WWF- World Wide Fall

Fall comes to most of the world but not all at once. In the Northern Hemisphere, September, October and November are considered fall, which is the hottest time for the Southern Hemisphere.  Then during March, April and May when the northern half of the planet is beginning its growing season, people in the south experience Fall.While there is some variation across the globe, East to West and closest to the Equator, almost every continent experiences seasonal foliage colour changes, as the temperature drops and sunlight diminishes.

Using my finger as a pointer, I traced my way through countries from west to east, writing their names on a list as I circled the earth. Then I began digging through my photographs and the wonderful world of Wikepedia , leaving you with the inspirational colours of to leave  you  with an inspirational tour of Autumn around the world!

 

 

Mt Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

country lane Great Britain

autumn in La Rioja Spain

Cacak Serbia

Great Wall of China

Kyoto Japan

Alberta’s Larch trees in Fall

Fall Country Fairs

Fall county fairs

Fall county fairs are everywhere …as nothing says fall like a country fair. In fact the sights, sounds, and smells found there are a reflections of the variety and hard work of local farmers and craftspeople throughout the province. Of course there are rides, candy floss, games of chance and an wide variety of things to eat.

 

Whether it be the rides, the animals,the plant competition or food, there is something for every one.Of course everyone loves something different about fall county fairs, but one of my favourite is to check out the livestock, especially the horses!

 

 

Fall county fairs also have a great deal of gardening displays and in formation. In fact, the Horticulture building has a huge variety of growing things to check out. Frequently there are  plant and design competitions and a wide variety of new annual and perennial plants ideas  for us to try ourselves.  I just looking at the perennial and annual blooms in the competition  inspires me to consider new garden layouts and plants that I can apply to my garden in the spring. In fact there are so many growing things, that they even decorate commercial booths set up around the fairgrounds!

 

Horticulture Building

Fall country fairs would not be complete without a trip to the Horticulture building. There, as mentioned, plants bloom, grow and often amaze! In fact one house plant, the Coleus had many entries in the competition there and the winner was so large, my tiny one at home would  barely measure up…time for me to consider some good organic fertilizer!

 

Coleus in Competition

 

Of course the unusual use of common items can also provide humour as well as beauty!

 

Fall country fairs have the unique mix of farm and city type of growth in that a wide variety of vegetables and house/garden plants are arranged together in many unique ways.

 

 

Vast amounts of Veggies

Fall country fairs also display the widest variety in type and size that I have ever seen. The images below are merely a small sampling of what can be seen.

                                                                                        

                                            

Fall Fairs' vast veggie display

Fall Fairs’ vast veggie display

 

 

 

 

 

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1600 lb Pumpkin