Monday, September 23, 2013

Early signs of fall

Tulip poplar leaf
On this early day of fall, the season already feels well-started.  Here on Roundtop, the deer are wearing their brown winter coats. The fawns have lost or are losing their spots.  The summer songbirds are gone, and the local residents are noisy again now that the breeding season is over. The mornings are crisp but the afternoons are warm enough to roll up my long sleeves as I putter around the cabin.

The forest's summer understory is withering and and disappearing onto the ground. it is not yet cold enough, not the days short enough, for the big trees of the forest to turn color, but the drying of leaves on the smaller trees continues.  At the moment, the trees most affect are the smaller tulip poplars, a softwood.  The big tulip poplars are as green as ever. August and September so far have been cooler than normal here and also drier, if not by an enormous amount.  I have occasionally before this year seen early yellowing on leaves.  Typically, that has occurred when August is both hot and dry, so I am surprised to see it happen during a cool and dry season. To my eye and memory, the level of this year's drying leaves is extreme.  At the moment, precipitation is not quite 4.5 inches below normal, a goodly, if not extreme amount.

I am thinking that the lessened amount of snowfall last winter and the drier than average spring did more damage to the smaller trees than could be made up by a rainy June. perhaps these smaller and less robust trees were made even less robust by the wet weather of 2012.  And while 2012 was only about 4 inches above normal in my area, 2011 was a record-setting wet year, nearly double the normal precipitation.  So now in a dry year, these trees aren't perhaps as hardy as they might have been if rainfall had been "normal" over their growing lives.

It is well known that a warm, dry summer followed by a rainy autumn produces the best fall colors. We've had the dry part, and the summer was warm, though not hot. Now, if only the rainy autumn would appear, perhaps this would be a good year for fall colors. That is something to look forward to and hope for.

1 comment:

Sharkbytes said...

The last two years I've predicted poor fall color here and been really wrong both times, with great color. This year I'm keeping my mouth shut!