leaders of the pack

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The stoplight trees - that were red, yellow, and green back in September - are now all done! All the leaves are gone from all three trees.

Here's their transformation in the last couple of weeks....

October 16th

Two weeks ago, there were still leaves on all three trees. The left tree was full of fruit (brownish red samaras) and the tree on the right was still yellowing.

October 20th

Four days later, the tree on the left and the one in the middle had precious little leaves remaining and the one on the right had lost a large percentage of its leaves. Rainy days in between led to a large number of leaves coming down suddenly.

October 24th

Four days after that and it's pretty much all over! The tree on the left has all her fruit and maybe a half dozen leaves on the very lowest twig. The middle tree is bare. And the tree on the right almost bare. Eight days and they're all set for winter.  But when are those samaras going to fall off of the female tree? Why hasn't she let go of them yet?? They weren't there in the winter, so I know they don't stick around forever.

Check out the bare branches on the female tree (you can see the fruit hanging from the higher branches at the top of the picture):

October 24th

Two months ago that same group of twigs looked like this:

August 25th

I'd forgotten how the trees sort of disappear when the leaves aren't there. You just see right through them. That first picture looks like a picture of the house, not of branches. What a difference the leaves make.


And all that's left of these leaves is scars on the twig, a mess on the street, and some buds waiting for next spring.

Hey, can you see the green on the trees in the background there? There's actually still quite a lot of green around. I'm surprised at how green some of the other trees still are at the end of October. These ash trees really are way ahead. The stoplight trees and my own tree are practically bare, while their neighbors are still putting on a show of fall colors.

a honey locust and my ash tree



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It's been a few weeks since we've taken a good look at my tree. You won't believe how much it has changed!

In early October, the view of my tree from my window looked like this:

October 4th

A week later and it looked like this:

October 12th

Four days later:

October 16th

Three more days:


And today, it looks like this:

October 25th

Amazing! Man, these ash trees lose their leaves early and fast! The other trees around still have leaves. The maples have leaves. The honey locusts have leaves. Even the chestnut still has leaves (although they look awful!). Pretty much all the bare trees I see are ashes.

Even the big ash tree down the street has gone through a dramatic change in the last week. The last time I'd photographed him was nine days ago and he looked like this:

October 16th

Yesterday, he looked like this:

October 24th

Incredible! That tree had the fullest canopy of any tree around here. It was thick with leaves. And now they're gone.

a walk among the trees: fall edition

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There are a lot of changes going on out there these days! Time to check in on the neighborhood trees.

The big, beautiful ash tree down the street has gone from this...

September 22nd

...to this...

October 10th

...to this...

October 16th

You can tell that things are really starting to speed up now. The change in the last six days is quite dramatic.

Our girl ash down the street also looks quite different.

Here she was two weeks ago:

September 28th

And last week:

October 10th

And just this past weekend:

October 16th

She's lost all of her leaves! All that's left on the tree is the fruit. And she's also lost her low-lying branches that I had so often photographed. Yes, the men with pointy sticks have been back, diligently pruning back all the trees I've been following! Grrrrr.

Then there's the maple I spotted by my kids' school. It turned bright red early on.

September 22nd

See the lower leaves that were still green back in September? Well, those are all that's left on the tree now!

October 16th

The chestnut tree I've been watching still has plenty of leaves, but it has been dropping stuff like gangbusters!

chestnuts and chestnut leaves

Even the slow oaks seem to have picked up the pace.

October 16th

And the slowest of all, the kooky honey locusts, are finally getting in on the fall fun.

October 16th

Better late than never!

tree ring circus

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It's story time again, everyone! Today we have Tree-Ring Circus written and illustrated by Adam Rex. This book is a rollicking story about what happens when the circus rolls by a rather popular tree.


Now we all know that any good tree story has got to start with a seed.


Rex tells his story in rhymes and he makes excellent use of the long e sound in tree.


That is one awesome tree. Look at those roots! And it's already losing its leaves.


As soon as the tree appears, critters show up to live in it. The text in the book is often partially illustrated like the words on the left. The words are oversized and oddly shaped. I feel like I can hear an old-time carnival barker yelling them out: "Step right up and see the whopping big bee!"


After a few more critters show up, the traveling circus drives by. Turns out they've lost their clown. (Can you find him?) While Barley and Brown look around a mischievous monkey steals their key. And he sets the animals free.


Now 13 more creatures climb into the tree. Including an elephant, who you can't see. Uh-oh.


Oh gee.

How fabulous is that word "lea" there?! So cool. I love the idea of using this book in a unit on trees to talk a little about the word tree - to play around with its sound and create some clever rhymes.

If you're interested in another silly story about animal antics, check out Rex's book Pssst!, where the animals at the zoo start talking to the visitors.

bright colors and yes, acorns!

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Welcome to the party, oak trees!


See that there? It's orangey leaves on the big oak down the street. Woohoo!

And a few yards farther down, I spotted another oak with a little cluster of beautifully colored leaves.


The oaks may be late, but they are making up for it with some lovely colors!

I spotted these as I was stopped at a red light this week.



But where are the acorns? I want to see acorns! Okay, I've seen acorns. Just not on a tree. I've never been able to find them growing on an oak. Where do they keep the things?

I happened to find an oak twig on the ground last week and brought it home for closer inspection. I noticed some bud-like things near the leaf petioles.


But they look like buds for next year's growth. Well that's where the buds for next year are growing on my tree, so I assume that's what these are. So that still leaves me with the question: where's the acorns? Show me the acorns!

Mother nature could tell I was getting a little frustrated and she took pity on me by putting another oak twig in my path. This one was longer and had more growth.


Now I was able to see two different kinds of bud-like thingies on the twig!


See?! I think the top ones at the tip of the twig are the buds for next year like I saw on the first branch. And I think the darker ones below are tiny acorns!


They just look different from the buds near the top. These things look like tiny shriveled peppers with mini acorn caps on them. The other buds look more like something that could unfold its many layers to make flowers or leaves.


How cool is that? Also, how neat are all the veins you can see in the close-up of those leaves?!

Alright oaks, keep up the good work. I want to see more!

going, going....

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How appropriate that there was a moving truck parked in front of the stoplight trees all day last week. Those leaves are on their way out!

A week ago, the stoplight trees looked like this:


What a difference a week makes, right? Just look at how few leaves that middle tree has left!


Without any seeds to keep the canopy looking full, it's really starting to look bare. But wait, this is a boy/girl tree. I know I've seen girl flowers on this tree as well as boy ones. I wonder why I can find any fruit at all? Hmmm....

Here's a picture from two days later. Now look at the big tree on the right.


I wouldn't really call that green anymore! That's a male tree, like mine, and he seems to be changing all at once.

Three days later (this morning) and the stoplights look like this:


That's just five days between the first picture in this post and this one. Wow!

two weeks of fall

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My tree is really getting into the swing of things now!

A week and a half ago, the view of my tree from inside the house looked like this. Now it looks like this:


There's significantly fewer leaves and the ones that are left are way less green. In fact, some of them are downright brown.


These are higher up on the tree. Just below them is the last little cluster of regular old green leaves.


One look at the whole tree and you can see that this little cluster is in denial because ALL the other leaves are well underway.

Yes, I'm talking about you there.

And down below, a crowd is gathering.


They're all brown down here. But I don't think they are all brown when they fall. I think a lot of them are actually yellow when they fall and then brown quickly because they are no longer attached to the twig. Just a theory so far though. I keep trying to get a picture of a leaf actually falling, but I'm never quite quick enough to catch one with the camera. The whole watching a tree thing is funny: it's too slow and it's too quick all at the same time.

anton und die blätter

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This week's story time book is in German! I couldn't resist sharing one of my favorite German kids books since it's all about leaf piles in the fall. The book is Anton und die Blätter by Ole Könnecke. I love Könnecke's Anton character. (For a look at another Anton book, check out this entry on my old blog.) The title of this book means "Anton and the Leaves." But don't worry about the German; you don't need to know German to understand this book!

Anton and the Leaves

There is Anton. Anton has raked up all the leaves.

Look at him! He's so proud!

Wait a minute, there's another one.

Okay, how awesome are the pictures here? The drawings are mostly black outlines on white, with just a few touches of the fall colors red, yellow, orange, and brown here and there.

So Anton wants to get that one last leaf, but...

There comes the wind.

The leaf blows away and Anton runs after it.

There is Lukas. There is the leaf.

Now Lukas joins in the chase after the leaf.

There are Greta and Nina. There come the boys. "Stop!", shouts Anton. "Hang on!", shouts Lukas.

And what do the girls do?

The girls run too. They've almost got the leaf.

Of course the girls join in! Other kids running by chasing something: what 5 year-old can resist that?!

There comes the wind again.

Drat! Just when they had the leaf trapped up in a tree, the wind sends it back in the direction it came from. In the tradition of We're Going on a Bear Hunt, the whole gang runs past all the places they've been before. Past the trees. Past the playground. Past the swing.

They've almost got the leaf. Almost...

Well, you know what happens next, right?

"Got it!", shouts Anton. "Got it!", shouts Lukas. "Got it!", shouts Greta. "Got it!", shouts Nina.

And then they go home to celebrate with juice and cookies.

Isn't Anton the best? Doesn't he just make you want to be a kid again? Now, go on outside and jump in some leaf piles. You know you want to.

that's gonna leave a mark

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Let's look at leaf scars!


When the leaves fall off the twig, they leave behind a scar where they had originally grown out of the twig. The white scar above is the typical "smile" shaped leaf scar that you see on ash tree twigs, particularly next to the terminal bud. This twig has just started losing the leaves at its tip. You can still see two of the petioles (stems) that connect the remaining leaves to the tip of the twig. Soon the bud will be surrounded only by scars.

Scars also remain on the side of the twig where leaves were attached.


See the new scar there! It's still sort of greenish. Amazing!

And on the other side of the same twig, there's another scar. (Recall that the ash tree has leaves in an opposite arrangement, which means that pairs of leaves grow in opposite directions on opposite sides of the twig, making a \ | / shape.)


Here's one last scar I spotted on a low branch of an ash tree across the street.


This one looks a little darker than the others. Maybe it's older? Maybe the petiole broke off a little differently. This picture also gives you a great look at the large scar that marks where the new growth began this season. That's one ugly scar!

seeing red

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The stoplight trees continue their colorful tribute to traffic control and, amazingly, the girl ash tree (on the left) just keeps getting redder and redder.


Now that she's lost a lot of her leaves, I can see that the red isn't in fact coming from the leaves at all. It's the fruit!

click for a larger version!

I wonder if this apparent color change is simply due to the fact that I can see the fruit better now with the leaves gone. Or maybe the fruit has been getting darker in color. 

Here's how the fruit looked on a low branch five days ago. (The lower branches are changing a little more slowly, so I'd say this part of the tree is behind.)


And here's how the fruit looks today.


Hmmm... hard to tell.

The fruit hanging midway up the tree definitely looks darker than this fruit though. (The middle section of the tree colored earlier and has lost the most leaves. I'd say this part of the tree is ahead.)


It could just be the thick clusters of samaras that make them look darker. I couldn't say for sure.

Still, who would have thought that the seeds would be responsible for the fall colors and not just the leaves?!