Catasauqua Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLERed maples are among the earliest deciduous trees to change colors in fall. PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLERed maples are among the earliest deciduous trees to change colors in fall.

Bud’s View: colors of fall

Friday, November 11, 2016 by BUD COLE Special to The Press in Focus

Each year as fall sets in, the northeast states become alive with the beautiful and radiant colors of the autumn season.

You have to feel sorry for people living in many parts of the United States who do not experience the changing colors that we have in the Lehigh Valley region. The area’s varied tree species and large timber stands can certainly compete with a giant box of Crayolas.

Timing of the peak changes in leaf colors varies with locale. Individuals who really love the changing foliage can spend weeks enjoying the colors. Start in Maine during September and slowly work your way south. If you plan your trip well you will be able to continually visit the most colorful areas. The Weather Channel gives daily reports showing color coded maps indicating the best areas to visit as the leaf colors peak.

Take the time to look around where you live. Be observant as you hike, bike or drive through an area. Many people are in too much of a hurry to see the beauty. Stop and rest a bit. I think you will agree that the colors are spectacular.

The phrase, “seeing red,” can be used in several different situations. Some people use the phrase when they are angry or upset. The phrase in this column is used to focus attention on plants that turn from summer greens to shades of red during the fall season. Leaves turning red across local landscapes at this time of the year include red maples, sassafras, flowering dogwoods, black gum and staghorn sumac. Virginia creeper and the dastardly poison ivy also sport red hues.

Red maple leaves are among the earliest leaves to lose their green color. The red maple is a medium-sized tree, able to live in wet and dry environments. “Seeing red” definitely fits the red maple. It highlights the early spring season with its red flowers and red-winged fruits. Leaf stems are red throughout the growing season and the leaves turn crimson in fall.

The sassafras is well-known for producing three types of leaves on the same tree. It bears unlobed oval leaves, mitten-shaped leaves and three-lobed leaves. If you are very observant, you will notice that there are actually four different leaf shapes because there are both left and right thumbed mitten-shaped leaves on the tree. The sassafras is a small to medium-sized tree with crooked branches and a scraggly crown. The shavings of the root have been boiled to produce a bright red tea. At least 18 bird species and several mammals eat the dark blue fruits.

At the same time that the flowering dogwood leaves turn to a maroon color their glossy red fruits are ripening, thus luring various bird species and squirrels on board for a meal. More than 80 bird species eat the fruits. Dogwoods are small native trees with low spreading crowns. They are a favored ornamental often planted in yards and parks. Native Americans made a red dye from the bark of the smaller roots.

Black gum leaves turn a vivid red and orange. This medium-sized tree has a flat-topped crown. The branches spread out horizontally, featuring short spur-like twigs. They are well-represented along many sections of the Appalachian Trail. The tough, difficult to split wood was once used for making water pipes.

Staghorn sumac, no relation to poison sumac, is a common woody shrub. Its compound leaves turn a brilliant scarlet red. The bare branches resemble a stag’s horns, more correctly a stag’s antlers, during the velvet-covered growing stage.

The female trees produce a compact red cone-like fruit cluster. These clusters remain on the tree after ripening and provide food for more than 90 species of birds. A pink lemonade-like beverage can be prepared from the berries, thus giving rise to the pink lemon-like drink first produced by northeastern Native-Americans. If you think about it, squeezed lemons do not produce a pink color. The ripe berry clusters did not decay as lemons did on the long return voyages from the New World to Europe. The Europeans became hooked on the tart drink. Many ships filled their cargo holds with the fuzzy red berry clusters.

Be sure to look around when you are out and about. And, at this time you can follow the continuing change of colors by heading south. Slow down and enjoy this wonderful colorful season before the colors disappear again for another year. You won’t be disappointed.

That’s the way I see it!

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