New England Autumn Color Begins To Emerge!
In the past week and a half, I’ve spent a great deal of time considering the formation of the New England landscape that we tour amongst as trees don their colorful cloaks. The land itself appears so static, and the changes that annually occur seem just surface deep. It’s difficult to perceive from our yearly visits that but a century ago, the land was largely clear cut. Harder yet to envision is the scale of the forces that have for millions of years been eroding the ranges that were once the highest in the world. Everywhere, we see evidences of these forces, from potholes in the granite to deep gorges, to huge slides on our mountain peaks. All evidences of great, cataclysmic, and we thought, inconceivable time scales and events.
Comprehending of such displays of natural power is now well within our collective grasp. Irene gave us insight into how the land we love, that we admire and that we enjoy has taken shape. And while it has exposed weakness in our landscape and infrastructure, it has shown us the strength of the people who call themselves New Englanders. Communities have been galvanized by this event, and people have come together to help each other clean up and rebuild. Roadwork has proceeded at a furious pace in attempt to limit detours during the tourist season. Traveling to some areas may provide greater challenges than usual this year, but I am confident that New England will be very much open for business this fall, and the show should be as admirable as always!
This past weekend was Labor Day, which marks the unofficial end of summer. Thoughts normally and naturally turn to the harvest, and fears of the first frost edge back into the psyche. Apple orchards are open for picking, and the sounds of marching bands and football fill town centers on weekends. It’s fair season in New England, with livestock shows and fried food in abundance. And it’s this time of year that the early New England autumn color begins to emerge!
The best places to see early color are always swamps, seeps, floodplains and wetlands. This is a niche environment, one that the red maple gladly fills. As a plant community, ‘red maple forested wetlands’ are the most abundant freshwater wetland environs in the northeast, and the wetter they are, the earlier they turn red in the autumn. These habitats can vary in size from sites harboring a single red tree in an otherwise green landscape, to complex systems that cover many acres. You’ll often spot them along roadsides, as the bright color will certainly catch your passing glance. Few of these areas though are generally inviting to explore. Most are muddy and buggy with few trails, but exceptions to the rule offer exceptional viewing along lakes and streams. John Burk, a noted New England landscape and wildlife photographer shared these views on the Yankee Foliage Facebook Page, and certainly exemplify such current opportunities.
Looking ahead to the anticipated arrival of more widespread color, we are now under three weeks away from the earliest peak color in New England, which is typically found in the far northern areas of Maine and Vermont. Many of these areas were largely unscathed by Irene and just need the right weather conditions to get the process going. Unfortunately, in the short term, the weather will be more influenced by the tropics than the cool, dry Canadian air that we like to see to start the season right. Rain showers will be the norm until we can push all of the moisture and remnants of Lee out of the region. Thereafter, a good sharp cold front dominates the long range forecasts. We’ll see how that plays out next week, as more early color begins to emerge!