Fall Color

cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia)

While many parts of the country have begun their winter, here in Texas we are still enjoying the balmy days of Autumn.  While our fall color isn’t perhaps as dramatic as some places in the country we still have some lovely yellows and reds set against the backdrop of the evergreen cedar. (Juniperus ashei).  Cedar elms are tall stately trees that can be found on their own or hidden within the forest.  This year their small winged fruits covered the ground in September and October as their yellow golden leaves are doing now.

burroak2

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Another source for hints of gold on the hillside is the Bur Oak.  The leaves of this oak are enormous as are their beautiful acorns that have caps with dramatic “burrs” surrounding them.  A beautiful tree in a park setting this wonderful tree is now dropping its leaves, that are the size of a childs shoe, making a crunchy brown flooring for park goers to enjoy in the fall light.

spanishoak2

Spanish Oak (Quercus buckleyi or texana)

Oaks are also a source of dramatic reds seen along roads and on hillsides. The Spanish Oak belongs to the group of Oaks known as the Red Oaks and doesn’t disappoint. The identification of this fast growing species can be tricky as it has much in common with the Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) and Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata). Another source of deep red is from a slightly small tree, the flame leaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata). This wonderful plant specimen changes from a vibrant green in the spring to a deep red in the fall. It candelabra like inflorescences of tiny cream flowers resulting in reddish seeds which marks the beginning of the change in late September/October. Their color emphasized by the late fall light they optimize winter metaphor of burning the old and opening ways for new beginnings.

flameleafsumac

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Changing forests

Wildfires are an important topic in summer, raising awareness with regard to land management and fire as a tool.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/08/23/159614784/our-changing-forests-an-88-year-time-lapse

This article has some intriguing photo’s, taken over an 88 year period, that give a sense of the fuel load changing in response to land management practices.

One of the hardest things I find in working with landscapes is imagining the transformation, intended and unintended.  A landscape “What if?”, if you will.  While we delight in the colors of annuals and biennials it is the large perennials that give our landscapes form.  Thus, reminders of how any landscape, wild or tamed, alters through time is always helpful in sparking the imagination, adding another dimension to informed plant selection.