Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Ramble - Golden

It's the reds that grab all the attention in September and October. Maple leaves have turned, and the eastern Ontario highlands are ablaze with color in every valley, hill and cove. Other trees are dazzling in their own right, but every year their earthier hues are upstaged by the riotous, cavorting red maples.

When autumn arrives, chlorophyll production in trees slows down, and sugar levels surge, permitting the anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments in leaves to come into their own. Leaves with high levels of anthocyanins and low levels of carotenoids turn scarlet, and those containing high levels of both flash bright orange.  Leaves with high levels of carotenoids and low levels of anthocyanins do a sky dance in honeyed golds and yellows.  When both anthocyanins and carotenoids are absent, native tannins rule, giving us the burnished russets, ochres, umbers and bronzes of the great oaks, hickories and beeches.

I have a passion for carmine, claret and ruby, but it always seems to me that the golds, bronzes and russets of other native tree species don't get the attention they deserve in autumn. The oro (gold) on display here is anything but pallido (pale  or light). It dazzles the eye; it sings and dances, kicks up its heels. It rocks.

Aspens, ashes, elms and birches are dressed in radiant saffron, and so are ginkgo trees in the village. Beech leaves are coppery coinage, and oak leaves turn an alluring rosy bronze. Groves of poplar and feathery larch (tamarack) down by the beaver pond wear a delightful buttery gold.

Late blooming goldenrod sways back and forth until it goes to seed and offers its fuzzy children to the wind. A few yellow daisies and hawkweed still bloom in protected nooks. Everywhere, there is fine contrast from spruces, pines and cedars in the background, and blue-green evergreen fragrance fills the air.

And then there are all the smaller bright entities down on the forest floor among the fallen leaves. Eastern yellow fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) glows like a hundred watt bulb, and one can spot it in autumn as at no other time of the year. From the shadows, the lovely but poisonous fungus dishes out its frothy incandescence like a halogen lamp set on high beam.

This morning is for the glorious golds of the fall panoply. When the long white season arrives, it is the golds that will turn up in my dreams. Long may they delight in dazzling array.

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