Nature Walk: Last of the leaves that won’t last

European euonymus (photos by Anita Barbour)

European euonymus (photos by Anita Barbour)

In the waning weeks of autumn deciduous leaves still hanging from branches get scarcer. Among trees, oak leaves stay later; red oak or white oak group doesn’t matter regarding date of retirement, but being tough, oak leaves tend to remain stiff and shiny and so some at least will be good for pressing or even hanging as mobile elements from monofilament “string.”

Native “soft” deciduous tree leaves (maples, elms, birches, apples, hawthorns, etc.) tend to wither and dry earlier in the autumn, leaving little for pleasure or décor. Certain non-native trees and shrubs, especially those introduced from more northern latitudes, provide leaves suitable for pressing. Norway maple (Acer platanoides), though a notorious and locally abundant invasive, offers bright yellow leaves that keep their pressed color well into the late season. Sycamore maple (A. pseudoplatanus), a rare non-native you may see in the New York City area (if you get down that way for Thanksgiving, for example), has huge, fan-like leaves of a less intense yellow.

For late red leaves, shrubs offer a few more choices. These include one genus of shrubs (Euonymus spp.) most commonly known as burning bush. The rare native eastern burning bush or wahoo (E. atropurpureus), which we have never seen in eastern New York, is reported from western New York. The native strawberry bush or brookside burning vine (E. americana) is has been recorded from western New York and westward, along with three introduced species. Of these, both winged burning bush (E. alatus) and European burning bush (or spindle tree) (E. europaea) are found (and possibly spreading) in eastern New York. We have both of them in our yard, along with the evergreen fortune vine (E. fortunei), which we grew from a cutting, the source probably an old garden (or originally a nursery?) planting. In any case, the leaf colors range from red to pink to yellow-and-red blends and shadings. We are uncertain as to how widespread these plants may be, but looking for them at this time of year might be well worthwhile.

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But beware! The weather in the Northeast is predicted to turn wintry next week, with frosty nights from a cold air mass presently situated directly behind the north polar region. This air mass is forecast to move south, pushing much colder air into our area, bringing with it severe overnight frosts, the close of fall and our first taste of what could be a truly cold winter. Climate change is real, but it may not necessarily be what we think, or what we might welcome.

 

Early snow

Early snow

 

Leaves on bench

Leaves on bench

 

Webs and maple leaf

Webs and maple leaf

 

Winged euonymus

Winged euonymus

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