It’s been remarkably cool for mid-September, and signs of fall are everywhere, from subtle to spectacular. Here are just a few that we’ve noticed in the past week.
Flowering dogwood berries are at almost their most brilliant color right now. Think about why plants take the trouble to turn different parts bright colors at different times–it’s not to please our human aesthetic sensibility! In the case of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), whose berries provide one of the most nutritious foods for migrating birds, it’s so birds will notice the berries, eat them, and spread the seeds. All dogwoods have bright-colored, highly nutritious berries, and birds eat them eagerly. These berries will be gone in a day or so. and they’re ripening quite a bit earlier than usual.
We think of the leaves of woody plants as turning color in fall, but many native perennials exhibit brilliant fall folliage as well. Sundrops (Oenothera fructosa) and Penstemon digitalis are responding to the chilly nighttime temperatures by turning color, also very early.
Before plants shut down for the winter (which is what they’re doing when they show off their autumn colors), they prepare for next season. Notice next spring’s male catkins, fully formed on this hazelnut (Corylus americana) branch.
And some leaves are beginning to turn, even as the late-summer floral display continues. On the edge of my mini-forest, white snakeroot and goldenrod are in full bloom, while Aronia leaves begin to turn vivid yellow-red (top right of photo).