Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

September 26, 2008

A Splash of Purple Memory

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 2:24 pm

NOTE: This is the first entry of what†I hope will be a series of entries sent from the road. I guess you could call this my “Wandering Naturalist Series.”† My punctuality will depend completely on internet access†along the way and the amount of daylight.††I have no doubt that nature will provide†ample material.

†My journey towards the East coast will eventually take my wife & me to Cape Cod.On vacation, which for a naturalist is always a busmanís holiday, I find myself comparing things I know back home to things I encounter on the road. I am presently writing this from the mountains of western New York at a place called Kanakadea.Here in the ancestral land of the Seneca, the heavily forested hills are well clothed in autumn colors.

The state of autumn here is probably advanced due to the high elevation, since the latitude is not that different from lower Michigan where the leaves are just now hinting at things to come. Dark green Hemlocks and White Pines contrast with the crimson glow of Red Maples and golden Sugar maples.I look forward to both of these species back home, but I am seeing a third color that reminds of something that is now missing Ė the purples of the ash trees.

Emerald Ash borers have killed off nearly every single ash in S.E. Michigan and are spreading like wildfire from the Detroit epicenter. It has been several years since the initial kill, and we have grown painfully used to this absence. Upon entering an area of the country yet untouched by this plague, I am hit by something I didnít realize that I was missing. Ashes are one of the few trees that tend to turn a deep purple in the fall.Many will stick with a golden yellow, but enough of them allow their anthocyanins to bake in the autumn sun and turn into shades of deep maroon and true purple. Red-panicled dogwoods are purple leaved plants also and they have been doing a noble job of filling in the gap these past few years, but they are short and rounded. They can never hope to reach up into the canopy and show their purple heads like the ashes.

The incredible vistas afforded by sweeping valley and hillside views have given me a nostalgic glimpse into a recent past. Take a look at the sapling picture above and you’ll see just what an ash can do if given half the chance (you can see that they definitely don’t do things half ash either). †Iím hoping that someday, after the emerald scourge has past, that purple autumns will once again rise from the ashes.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress