Autumn unfolds

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The edge of my mini-woodland is filled in with bountiful flowers of volunteer goldenrod (species unknown) and white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum). A month ago, this shady area was dominated by great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), which has now gone quietly to seed (as has the sweet joe pye weed on the right). There’s still plenty of food for pollinators and birds.

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Look closely at this flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and you’ll see lots and lots of bright-red fruit. These trees are growing in part shade, which is their preferred siting. A dogwood tree placed in full sun would be severely drought stressed now, after more than a month of low rainfall. In nature, these shallow-rooted trees always grow under the shade of canopy trees, often at the woodland edge. Dogwood berries are especially nutritious, and birds never leave them on the trees or shrubs for long. Migrating birds will stop to eat these berries within the next few days. And speaking of berries . . .

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. . . back in July I showed you a picture of these cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) berries just as they were showing color. Compare that with the way they look now–ripe and juicy (edible to humans but very acidic). Usually birds don’t eat these berries until well into the winter, kind of as a last resort. This year they seem to be disappearing early, despite the abundance of other fruit. Maybe the cool nights have ripened them early.

I love to try to figure out the interactions of plants and animals in my garden and to watch autumn unfold.

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