The fall colours that blanket our region are, of course, the very nourishment that our soul requires every year. After a long, hot, muggy and sticky summer, the refreshing weather of autumn is so very welcome, and the blaze of colour that sweeps the land is reward for those of us who simply endure the other three seasons.
There is no other phenomenon that can make me stop the car every kilometre or so and get out to take in the view. Sometimes the camera is brought into play, but other times just the memory of the scene will be satisfaction enough. And I'm certainly not alone with this process of rejuvenation, as car after car can be found slowly patrolling the backroads, each slowing or stopping at their own points of interest.
From mid-September to late October the palette changes daily, with the combination of weather and plant species dictating the outcome. It all begins with the red maples that surround the beaver ponds and marshes, their suddenly scarlet leaves acting as a starting flag for the season.
Then the ferns swing from green to bronze, and goldenrods and asters spill colour across the scene. And every day thereafter a new splash, a new dab, a new stroke by that ultimate artist Nature enhances the landscape.
How does one pick a favourite tree or colour? That’s akin to asking a parent to pick a favourite child; each has their own strengths and each deserves recognition. To say the expanse of maple trees is 'best' is to ignore the myriad botanical participants that make the scene a whole. Yet to focus only on the minutiae of fall colour is to deny oneself of the grandeur that is the hallmark of autumn in Ontario.
Virginia creeper is a vine that has become prevalent along woodlot edges and rusting wire fencerows. Fairly inconspicuous for the summer months, there is no overlooking it when the leaves turn blood red and the vine dangles from tree limbs across a setting sun. Yep, they are certainly a contender for 'favourite'.
However, mixed in with Virginia creeper is another fall favourite, the wild grape. Also wending its way along strands of fence wire or up the trunk of sturdy trees, grape leaves glow with a yellow luminosity, and their large size provides needed background for the smaller leaves of nearby foliage. There are several places where the tire marks of my car have been left in the gravelly shoulder of a road, directly opposite a most beautiful arrangement of creeper and grape.
Wet ditches provide cattails and rushes that offer muted browns and soft yellows, dogwood shrubs add a spicy rip of red and, if you are lucky enough, winterberry clusters will highlight the shadow areas.
Hillsides are great places for fall viewing as the open sun has stimulated the staghorn sumacs to grow profusely. Perhaps short-lived in terms of fall colour, what they lack in duration they make up for with intensity. Those lazy leaves of summer green provide a kaleidoscope of red, orange, yellow and rust as the shrubs pull back from production and prepare for winter's long sleep.
Ash trees have an earthy burgundy cast to their compound leaves. On the first ‘killing frost’ of the season, they let loose a shower of leaflets that turn the ground to a carpet of yellow-purple. Always arresting to view when out for an autumn walk, ash is one of the quiet favourites of fall tree fashion.
And what was that other tree that looks so good at this time of year? Oh yes, sugar maple. Rare is the site where maples grow as prominently as they do around here. Travel the planet if you wish, but few will be the places found that rival our sugar maple's razzle-dazzle display of colour. It's just so Ontario… and Quebec… and Vermont. But that's about it. Well, okay, maybe a couple of other places along the St. Lawrence hardwood region as well, but speaking globally, we've got the best right here.
With a sudden storm in November, it will all be gone. So, get out now and enjoy your fall favourites, for as we all know, good things don't last forever. And it's a long wait until next year's exhibition.
Dave’s Notebook: Good morning on a LOVELY fall morn! No 'killing frost' yet so those glorious autumn colours are still available for viewing. If possible, get outside!
© 2022 David J. Hawke
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