Thursday, December 1, 2022

50 Shades of Fall

Who doesn’t love Fall’s bright colors? Let’s face it. Fall tree foliage at its peak is one of the most beautiful of natural wonders, even if it’s nature’s way of shutting down food production for the season. Sometimes I get impatient as I wait for vivid fall colors to hit. As things start to dry up and go dormant for the season, it’s not always spectacularly beautiful. Sometimes leaves and grasses simply start to die off. Most people don’t find this type of change beautiful.

 But sometimes you have to look closely to see the beauty. As I not only waited for fall foliage to begin its lovely journey, but also for my daughter to be finished with her after school volunteer shift at the local animal shelter, I spent the time walking at a local favorite place of mine. Though called Warneke Woods, the natural area also contains a restored prairie. As things transition from summer to fall, there is much to be seen.

As I began my hike, I tried to decide whether to walk along the prairie path first or hit the woodland trails. Glancing out at the prairie, as the tall grasses swayed in the wind, with their colorful sturdy stems keeping them upright, I decide to head to the woods first. Not only were the tree leaves starting to change colors and fall, but there were some beautiful fall woodland wildflowers to view.

 Earlier in the season, I had already had my first time encounter with White Rattlesnake Root (not to be confused with White Snakeroot, also a late summer – early fall bloomer), jewelweed, various woodland edge goldenrod species and others, but now was the time for several woodland asters to bloom. Looking at the shades of pale blue, pink, and white, I try to distinguish one from another, but sometimes I just give up and enjoy their beauty without worrying about which species they are.

 As I walked through the woods, I not only watched, but also listened. I heard the breeze blowing tree branches, their leaves, and finally, the leaves falling. What a sound that makes. So soft, and so peaceful.

As I emerged from the woods, my eyes were drawn to the prairie grasses. A few New England Asters and other tail end wildflowers were blooming, but they could not compete with the subtle beauty of the grasses. Tall at this time of the year, with their fluffy seed heads and colorful stems, they have the same beautiful colors as their fall foliage tree leaf counterparts. The day I walked in this area was cloudy, so the colors really stood out against the colorless sky and without the harsh sun to diminish their colors.

So while I am usually attracted to the bright colors of other native plants and use that color in the photographs I take and share to help others appreciate natural beauty, I still enjoy the more subdued shades of fall, the fifty shades of Fall.


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