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Posts Tagged ‘Beech Fall Colors’

In the 1930s a French lady named Antoinette Sherri bought several hundred acres on the east side of Rattlesnake Mountain in Chesterfield New Hampshire and built a house there. The house, which some called a “castle,” was built of local stone by Italian stone masons and stood until 1962, when it was vandalized and burned. The photo above shows some of what little is left, and also shows how what little is left is slowly crumbling away. The arches are letting go.

There is a beaver pond on the property but I don’t think the beavers are active any longer.

The lodge looks unused but that was okay; I was here for the beauty, not the beavers or the stonework.

Oaks are turning some amazing colors this year.

Beeches are wearing their usual yellow but they’re still very beautiful.

Here’s another photo of the forest at Willard Pond that I took far too many of when I went there. It’s beautiful enough to see again, I think.

Though we have a long way to go to drought abatement we have had some rain and it’s nice to see the streams flowing again.

I saw a few fallen oak leaves and that means the bare trees of November must be just around the corner.

I love how lake sedge (Carex lacustris) seems to flow like the waves of the pond and lake shores it grows on. It is really the wind and its own weak stems that make it bend so, but I think it makes a pretty display. Lake sedge is native to Canada and the northern U.S. and can at times be found growing in water. Waterfowl and songbirds eat its seeds. Even when it isn’t blowing in the wind it seems to have movement.

I took the wrong road in Chesterfield and was glad I did. It was beautiful.

I finally got to the overlook that looks off toward the green hills of Vermont. It was also beautiful. It’s really too bad that people from other places couldn’t get here to see the foliage this year. In a normal year they come from all over the world to see this.

Here’s another shot from Willard Pond; what I call the far hill. Gosh it was beautiful.

And another shot of the forest at Willard Pond.

A backlit bit of forest in Chesterfield. What gorgeous colors we’ve seen this year, even in a drought. I’ve been told, over the course of my whole life I think, that adequate rainfall determined whether or not we’d see good leaf color. So much for that theory.

Even the bracken ferns have been colorful.

And the blueberry bushes. Never have I seen them as beautiful as they are this year.

The many colors of maple leaved viburnum could take an entire post to show. It’s one of our most colorful native shrubs and I love seeing it.

And then it looks like this; a pale almost non existent pink, just before the leaves fall.

While the maples have been a little disappointing the oaks are incredible.

The color range of oaks is always a surprise.

I caught a royal fern (Osmunda spectabilis) that was still wearing yellow. Once they start changing they quickly go from yellow to a kind of burnt orange to brown. Many people don’t realize that this is a fern and that’s why I show it so often. That and I like it.

Witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana) have gone brown but their yellow flowers still peek out from under them. In fact it’s common to find a bush full of blossoms and not a single leaf.

Witch alders (Fothergilla major) are beautiful in the fall and they show what the sun does to their leaf color. The yellow you see is where the sun hasn’t hit their leaves full on, but the red leaves have been in full sun. Does this mean that the sun causes them to lose their chlorophyll quicker? Witch alder is a native shrub related to witch hazel which grows to about 6-7 feet in this area. Though native to the southeast it does well here in the northeast, but it is almost always seen in gardens rather than in the wild. The fragrant flower heads are bottlebrush shaped and made up of many flowers that have no petals. What little color they have comes from the stamens, which have tiny yellow anthers at the ends of long white filaments.

I feel bad for saying the maples have been disappointing. I should have said that they had amazing color but their leaves fell quickly. I just read that drought and high heat cause trees to turn early and drop their leaves sooner, and that’s exactly what has happened. This small maple made it through and it was a knockout.

I’ll leave you with a moment of reflection. Beautiful yes, but many people far more knowledgeable about such things than I am have said that in reality, you are the beauty you see. Here’s one of them now:

The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran

Thanks for coming by.

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Last Sunday I was going to go over to Willard Pond in Hancock to see the beautiful display of beeches and oaks but a lot of the oaks here are still green. Anyhow, according to the blog archives I don’t usually go there until the last weekend of the month, so I decided to visit Yale forest in Swanzey. I chose the part of the forest with the old paved road running through it. Yale University has owned this parcel of land since the 1930s and allows public use. The road was once called Dartmouth Road because that’s where it led, but the state abandoned it when the new Route 10 was built and it has been all but forgotten ever since.

The first thing I noticed on this day were all the downed trees. In some place I had to go off into the woods to get around them. I doubt the folks at Yale even know they’ve fallen.

Three years ago they were logging here and they cut quite a lot of trees. Why this pile was left behind I don’t know.

Yale founded a school of forestry and environmental studies in 1900 and owns parcels of land all over New England. Alumni donated the land in some cases and in others the University bought or traded other land for it, and in time good sized pieces of forest were put together. This particular parcel is 1,930 acres in size.

The forest is recovering well from the logging, as this young maple shows. All those new shoots are coming from one stump and they make good browse for deer and moose.

There are lots of hardwoods out here including oak. This young oak had colored beautifully.

Many beeches had also changed already and they and the oaks made me question my decision not to go to Willard Pond. I’d hate to miss the fall colors there because it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen.

It was a beautiful fall day, but a bit chilly with temps in the 40s F. and a brisk wind. I was wishing that I had worn gloves.

I saw some small fall oyster mushrooms on the end of an old moss covered log. Oysters are very unusual mushrooms, because they exude toxins that stun the nematodes that try to feed on them. Once stunned the mushroom’s mycelium invades the nematode’s body through any orifice and digests the worms. The mushroom also consumes bacteria in order to get nitrogen and proteins from them. What all of that means is the oyster mushrooms are carnivorous.

A ray of sunshine shone a spotlight on a beech tree. When this happens I always pay close attention. It was a sun beam just like this one that had me seeing the true beauty of a red clover blossom for the first time a few years ago.

I didn’t see anything about the beech tree that seemed out of the ordinary or special but I did see some running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) just behind it in the woods and this was special, because it was producing spores in the long “clubs” that give it part of its common name. This is the first time I’ve ever seen running club moss produce spores. The other part of its common name comes from the way its long stems “run” just under the soil surface.

Clubmosses aren’t mosses at all but they do produce spores in long, club like sporophylls, like those shown here. Clubmoss spores can take as long as 20 years to germinate and then only under ideal conditions. If it’s too warm where the spores fall they will not grow. There was a time about 200 million years ago when there were forests of clubmosses which grew to 100 feet tall. Native Americans used the strong underground stems of clubmosses as twine and also brewed a medicinal tea from them.

Ferns also produce spores and I always like to look at the undersides of their fronds at this time of year to see if there are any sporangia. Evergreen marginal wood ferns (Dryopteris marginalis) like the one seen here should have some, but they won’t be on all the fronds so you have to look carefully.

Sori are tiny clusters of sporangia and there they were, located on the leaf margins just as they should be on a marginal wood fern. The sori are often round or kidney shaped but they can be just about any shape, I think. Before the spores mature the sori are covered with a kind of a tissue cap called an insidium but I can just make out the individual sporangia here so these spore were mature and ready to let the wind catch them.

Here were more fallen trees. If you look closely you can see four of them here. I wonder who will clean this all up. I certainly got tired of climbing over and under them but I always stop to look them over because you can find some interesting lichens on fallen trees.

This was a little scary because I had to walk under it if I wanted to go on. And the wind was blowing. Luckily it stood for as long as I was there.

When you’re close to where the old road meets the new Route 10 a stream cuts its way through. On this day I was able to step / hop across it but I’ve seen it when I couldn’t.

The stream flows out of what was once a beaver pond on the left side of the road but it was abandoned quite a while ago, by the looks. This place is unusual because when the beavers were active there were ponds on both sides of the road, or one large pond with a road running through it. It seems kind of an odd place for them to have built in. Beavers, from what I’ve read, will work an area in what averages thirty year cycles. The first stage is damming a stream and creating a pond. The flooding kills the trees that now stand in water and the beavers will eat these and the other trees that surround the pond. Eventually the pond fills with silt or the beavers move away and the dam fails. Once the land drains it will eventually revert back to forest with a stream running through it and the long cycle will repeat itself. Many other animals, birds, fish, amphibians, waterfowl and even we humans benefit from beaver ponds.

If you know where to look and what to look for you can still see parts of the old beaver dam. This one on this side of the old road is getting quite degraded and no longer holds water, but just three years ago it was still doing its job. You can see all the grassy growth at the top of the photo, which would be behind the dam. This area would have still been under water if the beavers were still here.

I can’t remember ever seeing witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) out here but there it was, in full bloom. I wasn’t really surprised; our woods are full of them. These flowers have a very subtle fragrance I’ve heard described as being like “fresh clean laundry just taken down from the line.” I haven’t taken much laundry down clotheslines so I can’t say one way or the other, but it is a pleasant, clean scent. Native Americans steamed witch hazel twigs over hot stones in sweat lodges to sooth aching muscles and my father always had a bottle of witch hazel lotion in the house.

I hope you liked this walk in the woods. Though I’ve walked here many times it is always changing and never the same. Though I’ve been wandering in the woods since I was just a young boy change isn’t something I’ve focused on, but walking through this particular forest again and again has shown me just how quickly changes can come to a forest, even without any human intervention.

 In a forest of a hundred thousand trees no two leaves are identical, and no two journeys along the same path are alike. ~Paulo Coelho

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