A Windy Change of Color

By Greg Lecker

Taking advantage of the end of Daylight Savings Time clock “fall-back”, I awake early Sunday to watch the dawn break.  A chilly 37 degree morning was at least clear and calm.   Is today one of the last warm days to enjoy the outdoors? 

At Spring Peeper Meadow, a large flock of Canada Geese keep me company.  The birds and an early morning jogger enjoy the solitude of this special place.  Even in the weak light of dawn’s break, one can discern bands of different colors encircling the wetland.

The geese seem to sense the 8 am formal opening of the Arboretum grounds; and the flock departs.  Entering the Arboretum from route 5, I’m struck by the bare ground of annual display gardens – wiped clean in preparation of the spring bulb planting.  Posts for the deer exclusion fence are installed.   

I drive directly into Sugar Maple forest.  I am happy to see that yellow-orange leaves remain on trees.  I find the overlook I am seeking near the Berens Cabin.  From the small parking pull-off at the uphill entry to the woodland garden, one can look across the Sensory Garden, and past the Ordway Shelter across Green Heron Pond.  Given the luxury of a few hours to observe this view while painting a plein air sketch, I am fortunate to watch the colored leaves fall and open up this view even further.

Sensory Garden Overlook

Sensory Garden Overlook

Very noticeably over the course of three hours, the wind picked up from breezes to strong and steady gusts that buffeted my painting box and panel.  Just as I finish my rendering, a loud crack directs my attention towards roadway between the cabin and me, a distance of perhaps one or two hundred feet.  I watch as the upper half of a large red oak – its entire canopy as well as a substantial portion of its trunk – yields to a particularly large and sustained swell.  In one action, the oak suffers a fatal injury and closes Three Mile Drive. 

Fallen Oak

Fallen Oak

By early afternoon, the tree canopy of Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden has been opened up and sunlight floods the woodland – though sunlight is no longer needed by the increasingly dormant wildflowers.

The white oak (Quercus Alba) adjacent to the Ordway Shelter, is anything but colorless.  Leaves are red, orange and yellow – and the tree is still fully cloaked in colorful foliage from top to bottom.  Even in the wind, the leaves hold tight.

White Oak Leaves

White Oak Leaves

Another tree retaining its colorful leaves – for now – is the tamarack, that rare deciduous conifer.

Tamarack Leaves (Needles)

Tamarack Leaves (Needles)

Get outside and enjoy the fleeting fall colors!

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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