Weather Forecast: Summer Followed by Autumn

Autumn leaf in June

I found this leaf on the ground when I walked along the river yesterday. Looks like fall, doesn’t it?

For those not fortunate enough to live in New England in autumn, you might not be aware that our leaves-turning-color event can actually happen—at least to individual trees—at any time.

I suspect we’ll see a bit more of this early-fall phenomenon than usual during 2012, and for a number of years to follow. To understand why, you have to understand the mechanism behind the appearance of fall foliage.

Actually, the beautiful yellow and orange in this leaf have been there since it emerged back in April. But when a leaf—or tree—is healthy, these wondrous colors are masked by the chlorophyll that’s doing its part to feed the tree.

Our autumn foliage is made possible by the die back of this amazing chemical, the one responsible for the green trees of spring and summer.

This little leaf was, unfortunately, not alone on my river walk. A glance up from the ground revealed a tree struggling from the damage inflicted by Irene—loss of bark, a partial uprooting, silt-covered roots.

We’ve learned from some of the tree experts around here that this situation will be replicated along our rivers for a number of years to come as the trees damaged by the unforgiving flood waters begin to die back.

This is the reason why we took the time to plant 125 trees here last month. In the years to come, they will serve as a succession planting.

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