Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer and fall

At first glance, this photo doesn’t look all that unusual, but I think it is.  First off, notice the green forest surrounding the woods road. And then look at the woods road itself. Those are fresh, yellowed and dead leaves on the road.  So the road looks like fall while the trees are still green. That’s the unusual part.

The downed leaves fell during yesterday’s rather violent thunderstorm.  The leaves from the orange tree I posted earlier this week are among those on the ground. The trees whose leaves were prematurely drying or changing color are now closer to being bare than leafed out. Even in this photo you can see some color on the trees near the center of the photo. And those aren't on little trees.

I have seen similar results before in September.  In those years, a very dry and very hot August caused a lot of the smaller trees to drop their leaves early.  This year August was drier than average but quite a bit cooler than usual.  My area is several inches below normal in rainfall, but it’s not any worse than I’ve seen before and quite a bit better than in the worst years.

So I’m wondering if this early September leaf drop is due to something else, though I don’t know what that is.  Certainly the tinier plants are the forest floor are shriveling up, and I know it’s simply time for these mostly annual plants to finish their life cycles.  Leaves on vines are also rolling up and will soon shrivel, despite the quarter inch of rain I got yesterday.

I have investigated, at least a little bit, the species of trees that are shedding their leaves to see if I can find a pattern there.  Beech trees are fairly prevalent among these and also wild cherry.  The larger trees, like the oaks, tulip poplars and hickories, don’t seem much represented. So my best guess at this time is that the lack of rainfall in the past three weeks has unduly stressed these smaller, softwood trees and caused them to drop their leaves early.  I may well be wrong, of course, so I will keep investigating.


Scott said...

The large red oaks along my driveway are doing the same thing, Carolyn. My driveway is littered with dry oak leaves.

Sharkbytes said...

I remember the year in PA the cherry scallop worm defoliated all the cherries in July. Stressed or not, the road/trail just calls to me as I'm sure it does to you.