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Posts Tagged ‘Oak trees in the Fall’

Each of the past two years, on the last weekend in October I’ve made the trip to see the fall foliage at Willard Pond in Antrim so, not wanting to break tradition, I visited the pond last Saturday. As this shot of the road to the pond shows, a lot of the leaves had already fallen, but the bare trees are maple trees and I was here to see the beeches and oaks.

I wasn’t disappointed. These beautiful beech trees greeted me as I pulled into the parking area.

Willard pond is a wildlife refuge so it wasn’t surprising to see a sign like this. I wish I could see the actual loons instead though.

I always walk by the actual trail head and go down to the boat landing because you get a good view of the hillsides from here. The trail I’ll follow will hug the shoreline in the distance over a large part of its length. I was hoping the pond would have a mirrored surface but it was breezy and you can’t have everything.

From here the trees didn’t have quite the same eye popping color that they’ve had in previous years and I wondered if the warm October weather had held them back a little.

The colors seemed a little more intense when the sun shined directly on the trees. They looked to be mostly beech, oak, and many bare maples. I’ve decided I’ll come here earlier next year to see the maples and then again later on to see the beeches and oaks. I’d love to see all the colors of those maples.

My favorite view of a forest is from the inside, so down the trail I went.

The beeches and oaks were absolutely beautiful. This is why I come here at this time of year, every year. I can’t think of another forest that is dominated by beech, oak, and maple like this one is. As is always the case when I come here I couldn’t stop taking photos of the trees.

There are hobblebushes (Viburnum lantanoides) all along the trail and many had beautiful red leaves, which is something I’ve never seen on this native viburnum. Usually the leaves are splotchy maroon and green or yellow but never red that I’ve seen, not even here at the pond. This shrub has a good name because it grows long stems close to the ground that crisscross each other and get covered by fallen leaves, and if your feet get tangled in them they will hobble you and you could find yourself face down on the ground rather quickly. It has happened to me a couple of times so I don’t walk through them now. I always walk around them.

Another native shrub with a lot of red in it is the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum.) Even the witch’s broom that grows on them is red when young. Witch’s broom is a deformity that is described as a “dense mass of shoots growing from a single point.” When witch’s broom grows on blueberries it is caused by a fungus called Pucciniastrum goeppertianum. This fungus spends part of its life cycle on balsam fir (Abies balsamea.) When it releases its spores and they land on the stems and leaves of the blueberry it becomes infected. It overwinters on blueberries and again releases its spores in the spring, and these will infect more balsam ferns and the cycle will begin again. I’ve worked with infected blueberry bushes and in my experience the witch’s broom doesn’t harm the plant.

But I wasn’t thinking about witch’s broom or fungal spores on the trail. I was admiring the beauty of the blueberry foliage, which in this case was orangey red. It can be anything from yellow to deep purple and is one of our most beautiful native shrubs for fall color.

There are many small streams flowing down the mountainside to the pond and they cross the trail, and that reminds me to tell you that you should wear good stout hiking boots when you come here. There are many stones, roots and other obstacles in the trail so this is not the place for sneakers or flip flops. I have waterproof boots, and they’re even better here.

When the streams are too wide to step across bridges help make the hike easier, but other than a bridge or two, blazed trees, and the marks of a saw on a tree that might have fallen across the trail, there are few signs of man here. It is for the most part natural and rugged. And very beautiful.

Several species of sphagnum moss grow along the trail, as if to remind you how very moist the soil is. These plants, approximately 380 species according to Wikipedia, can absorb 16-26 times their own dry weight in water. They are called peat mosses and are found in peat bogs, forests and tundra in both the north and south hemispheres. I see them everywhere but don’t usually say much about them because they can be very difficult to identify accurately. Because of its great absorbency peat moss was used as diaper material by Native Americans. It has also been used for centuries as a wound dressing, due to its natural ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Peat bogs were also once used to preserve food, and 2,000 year old containers of things like butter and lard have been found in them.

Motor boats aren’t allowed on Willard Pond but these two kayakers made me wish I had brought my own kayak. How beautiful it must be to see these flaming hillsides from the water.

There are some huge boulders here and by huge I mean house size. They’re bigger than any I’ve seen anywhere else and it makes me wonder why. They’ve tumbled almost right down to the water and there are places where you have to squeeze through a two boulder pinch point. They’re fascinating things to look at because they have all kinds of things growing on them.

One thing you can find growing on the boulders is polypody ferns (Polypodium virginianum.) Polypody fern is also called the rock cap fern, for good reason. I’ve never seen them growing anywhere but on stones. They are evergreen and very tough, and can be found all winter long.

The spores of polypody ferns grow on the undersides of the leaves in tiny mounds called sori, which are made up of clusters of sporangia, which are the receptacles in which the spores are formed. The sori are naked and lack the protective cap (insidium) found on many ferns. The sori are often a beautiful orange color and look like tiny baskets of flowers but it looked as if these examples had already released their spores and were going by.

If this boulder isn’t called table rock it should be. It was big, and flat enough to build an average size garden shed on.

Fern roots reminded me of a porcupine’s tail. I think it might have been a sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) but I don’t see many of these so I’m not 100% sure.

There is a new thing, or maybe it’s a very old thing with a new name, called forest bathing. To practice it you go into a forest and walk slowly. You breathe in the forest air and open all of your senses and just be part of the forest. Once again I find that I’ve been doing something for my whole life without knowing it had a name, but practitioners say that forest bathing reduces blood pressure, improves mood, increases your ability to focus, and accelerates recovery from surgery. All of these benefits have been studied quite extensively, and there is even evidence that trees give off compounds that boost our immune system to help with things like fighting cancer. They also say that being in a forest gives you a deeper and clearer intuition, an increased energy level, and an overall increase in your sense of happiness. I’d have to agree. I’ve always believed that nature has very strong healing powers, and to reap its benefits you need do nothing more than just go and walk or sit in the woods.

This is the view from the little bench in the previous photo. It’s a beautiful place to sit and soak in the beauty. In general it is very quiet and serene at Willard Pond; much more so than the other ponds I visit. All you hear is birdsong and the lapping of the waves.

If you sit on the bench and turn around 180 degrees, this is what you see.  It’s hard to say which view is more beautiful. I like them both and I could sit and stare at either one for hours.

This place takes me out of myself more than any other that I visit regularly, and every time I’ve come here I’ve been shocked by how much time had passed. On this day I was here for a good part of the day, and it seemed like only an hour or two.  If you let yourself go and let yourself become immersed in your surroundings, that’s often what happens. It’s very refreshing, as if you’ve recharged your batteries.

I hope that everyone has their own special forest that they can easily get to. If you can, try to make regular visits to it. Don’t turn it into a job; just walk through and relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. After just a surprisingly short time I think you’ll notice that you’re becoming a different kind of person. Happier, more at ease, more energetic, and less stressed. You might notice that you are beginning to see with different eyes, and that your mind has quieted. One of the benefits I most enjoy from being in the forest is the seemingly endless supply of simple joy. I do hope you’ll find the same in your own forest.

It was in the forest that I found “the peace that passeth all understanding.”  ~Jane Goodall

Thanks for stopping in.

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1. Beaver Pond

Our fall colors are just about at peak right now, with some trees already dropping their leaves and others like the oaks yet to turn. The show stealers at the moment are beech, which are bright yellow, and maples, which can be red, orange, yellow, and sometimes even pink. I think I saw them all at this beaver pond.

2. Red Maple

This maple was quite red. Oaks are an even deeper red and can sometimes border on purple. When some oak leaves dry they turn pink.

3. Ashuelot North

North of Keene on the Ashuelot River the foliage was yellow and green but it seemed like every nuance of each color was represented.

4. Bittersweet

The tree with red leaves in this shot has the bright yellow leaves of a bittersweet vine nearly at its uppermost branches. Invasive oriental bittersweet vines (Celastrus orbiculatus) are as strong as wire and they strangle many native trees by wrapping themselves around the tree’s trunk like a boa constrictor. I’ve seen vines as big as my arm wrapped tightly around trees so as the trees grew they had no room to expand and slowly died. If you want to rid your yard of bittersweet vines this is the perfect time to do so because they’re more visible right now than at any other time of year.

5. Bittersweet Berries

The spread of Oriental bittersweet vines is helped along by humans. At this time of year people use bittersweet vines that have fruit on them to make wreaths and table decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The berries are green for most of the summer but slowly turn yellow as fall approaches. Finally the yellow outer membrane splits into three and reveals a single, tomato red fruit. At the end of the season people throw the used vines onto the compost heap or out in the woods and the fruits grow to become new vines. Birds love the berries too, and also help the spread of the plant.

6. Pond View

Many people think bright sunshine is the only way to go when viewing fall colors but from a photography standpoint I think the colors are at their best on a slightly overcast day. In this photo the colors seem almost bleached out by the sun.

7. Hillside Colors

Keene sits in a kind of bowl surrounded on all sides by hills, and this is one of them.

8. Shack

This is another hillside view, with a favorite shack included for a sense of scale.

9. Virginia Creeper

The Virginia creepers (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) are beautiful this year. This one had a bit of purple on it and reminded me why my mother loved it enough to plant it on our house.

10. Maple Leaf Viburnum

In my opinion one of the most beautiful shrubs in the fall forest is the maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium.) Its leaves can be red, orange, purple, pink, or even a combination of all of them all before turning to a pale, almost white pastel pink before dropping. You can see both purple and orange on this example.

11. Sensitive Fern

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) gets its common name from our early colonists, who noticed that it was very sensitive to frost. Usually by this time of year these ferns would be brown and crisp from frost but since we haven’t had a real frost yet this year this example is slowly turning white. In my experience it’s unusual to see this particular fern doing this. Lady ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) do the same each fall and are usually the only white fern that we see.

12. Rail Trail

If you want to get really close to the colorful foliage rail trails are the perfect place to do it.

13. Beech

Beech leaves glow in the sunshine. If you’ve ever wondered what being inside a kaleidoscope would be like, just walk down a wooded New England trail on a sunny fall day.

14. Monadnock

Once again this year I missed most of the foliage at Perkins Pond near Mount Monadnock, but seeing the mountain itself was worth the drive.  Last fall a Japanese couple, through mostly sign language and broken English, asked me to take their photo in this very spot with the mountain behind them. It was the only time I’ve ever had my hands on an Ipad and I didn’t know what I was doing, but they seemed very happy with the photo.  This year I met another Japanese couple here and they had a Nikon DSLR but they didn’t ask me to take their photo. As I was leaving I wondered if I stood here long enough if I’d have a chance to try out every kind of camera made.

15. Peat Moss

I was surprised to see large mats of orange sphagnum moss growing just off shore in Perkins Pond. There wouldn’t be anything unusual about seeing peat moss at a pond’s edge except that these weren’t here the last time I was, and I was surprised by how fast they had appeared.  This one even had cranberries growing already on it.

16. Fallen Leaves

I found this scene last fall and it reminded me so much of scuffling through the dried leaves as a boy in grade school that I had to go back and revisit it. The sight, sound and smell that comes from wading through freshly fallen leaves crisping in the sun are things I’ll never forget.

17. Maple Leaf

You might not have the colorful fall foliage that we have here in New England but don’t despair; I can guarantee that nature has something every bit as beautiful for you to see right where you are.  The only condition is, it won’t come to you-you have to go outside and find it. Today might be the perfect day to do so.

There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep. ~Edward Abbey

Thanks for stopping in.

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