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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


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?!

we all fall down

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Look at all the leaves that have fallen off the girl ash tree down the street! She's looking pretty bare these days.


But she is still holding on to that fruit!


Unlike the ash, the maples are beginning to let their samaras fall.


And I've even spotted a few chestnuts on the ground!


The chestnut leaves are soooooo brown and shriveled now!


And the maple leaves are looking pretty yucky too.


Which makes me wonder: which goes first the seeds or the leaves? My girl ash tree is all about dumping her leaves right now, but she's still got her fruit, whereas the maples and the chestnut aren't dropping that many leaves, but the fruit is starting to go. Why drop your leaves first? Why hold on to them? Do maple seeds ripen faster than ash tree seeds? Do maple leaves last longer than ash tree leaves?

Even the honey locusts, which were so late to get leaves, are finally acknowledging the arrival of fall. I've spotted some yellow leaves up in the canopy.


And some below!


So that only leaves the oak still blissfully unaware and green as can be.


But we know that these leaves too shall fall.

super fruit

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Lookie what's ripening on the trees!

An ailanthus down the street is making some funny little clusters of fruit.


These look like little tadpoles or something. And there are TONS of them. Not surprising that the super tree is a BIG producer of fruit. The ailanthus by our parking spot, however, has none of these.... I think I just learned something else about the ailanthus: it's got male and female trees. Congratulations, it's a boy!

Right next to my boy ailanthus is a tree I tried to identify back in the spring. From looking at the leaves, I'd guessed it might be a chestnut. But now that I can see the fruit, I think I have to change my mind.


That there is black walnut fruit! So says my favorite tree id site, What Tree is It?


Hmmm... not edible. Good to know!

If I'd thought about it, I could have guessed that it wasn't a chestnut, because I'm already watching a chestnut and it has the cool spiky, blotchy fruits on it right now. Here are the chestnut fruits last week, about two weeks after I first noticed them starting to change.


Fruits are so cool!

in search of seed pods

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Now that we've checked in on my ash tree and on the chestnut down the street, let's see what the kooky honey locusts have been up to. Last time, I was starting to get confused/frustrated that I had yet to see any fruit on the honey locusts. I was eager to see if they had started to develop fruit after our month-long vacation.


Um, no. That's the honey locust right next to my tree. Still no fruit. Seriously? None? Ever hopeful, I kept walking to check out some other honey locusts elsewhere in the neighborhood. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, the honey locusts are dioecious like ash trees and have completely male and completely female trees. So this might just be a boy tree like my ash. Maybe.

We walked on toward the kids' school. Every fall, right at the beginning of the school year, we find seedpods galore all around here. My son even brought one in to kindergarten years ago for show and tell. (True story: Not knowing ANYTHING about trees, I had no idea what it was. I had to search on the internet to figure out that it was a seed pod. I never did figure out what kind of tree it was from. Now I know though!) So, I figured if there was going to be fruit growing on any honey locusts around the neighborhood, it was going to be here!


Result! Seed pods! And man, are they long already. I can hardly believe it. I hadn't spotted any real signs of fruit growing on the honey locusts before we left. So it did all that in one month. Cool!

Farther down the street I saw more seed pods on a honey locust I'd photographed before. In May, I'd spotted a birdie perched up among the creepy, jagged branches.


Now, the branch looks like this.


I love the way the seed pods hang down like little green bats. They're so thin and flat though. They make me think of Flat Stanley. Flat bananas for Flat Stanley.

Yeah, honey locusts are still weird.

the sky is falling

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Soon after we returned from our vacation, I happened to walk past the horse chestnut tree that I was watching in the spring. I was in a hurry, so I wasn't looking up at the tree. I was just rushing by looking down and I saw a chestnut! It was green and still on the small side, but it was a chestnut. I didn't have my camera with me (doh!) so I had to come back a couple of days later to take a picture of the tree's progress.


The chestnuts have really developed since I last photographed them in early June. The few that have fallen from the tree already are probably not really ripe or ready or mature or whatever you call it. But they are cute!


You know what? They remind me of the glowing light bulb trees in the Hundertwasser poster I saw in Regensburg! Except for the spikes of course. Oooh, I know, they look like a puffer fish! Those spikes are no joke by the way. They are ouchy. Amazing what a plant can come up with to protect its fruit.

let's hear it for the girl

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Finally, I managed to take a walk down the street with the camera to check in on the girl ash tree. She is looking quite different than my boy ash these days. My boy tree has no fruit of course, but she has lots of dangling clusters of samaras.


The samaras look a little longer than they did before we left. And there's definitely more of them. There also looks to be a narrow, longish seed inside now. Surprisingly, though, those green balls are also still there between the samaras. I thought they were part of the growing samaras and would disappear. Now I'm thinking maybe they are some part of the old flowers and are just shriveling up.

Another surprise on the lady ash is the color of some of her leaves.


Several of the leaves have turned completely yellow! Are these leaves dying? Did these leaves perhaps not survive the massive July heat waves as well as the others? Or is this a very early sign of changes to come in the fall? I imagine that things for the girl tree might progress a little differently than my boy tree as we approach fall. She's got to send those seeds off on their way before she's ready for a long winter's rest. I wonder if her leaves will change color earlier or later than those of the boy tree. And when exactly will she release her seeds? When are they "ripe"? How will she know?

fallen fruit

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I have ash tree fruit literally falling at my feet!


My daughter and I spotted this branch lying in the street right in front of our car. That side of the street is home to a large maple tree and a male ash tree (like mine), but I quickly noticed that this was a female ash tree with twigs full of developing fruit. The only female ash tree around is all the way across the main street. I don't know how this branch got over to me, except perhaps that it knew that I would be the only person in the neighborhood who would be thrilled to find it lying there!

My daughter helped hold it up so I could take a few pictures of it. (Can you find her in there? She was very helpful this time, but she is getting a little tired of my enthusiasm for trees. When we are out walking, I'll often stop and point out something interesting about a tree. She will look inquisitively and listen thoughtfully and then say worriedly, "Don't take a picture of the tree!" A few days ago, she was telling daddy that she was a very nice girl. Her proof: "I let mommy take pictures of trees." Passers-by were confused.)


So anyway, look at all that fruit!! We snapped off a small twig so we could bring it home and take a closer look at the fruit.  


All those dirty-looking black tufts I'd seen on the female ash tree three weeks ago seem to be gone now. Now there are only green tufts. I still don't know what those are. Are they the same things I spotted before, just having changed color? It doesn't look like the fruit has grown directly out of them. Maybe those just haven't grown a fruit yet and the others have dropped off? Maybe the fruit grows out beneath them? Or are they merely some part of the old flower? They look better in green - that's all I know.

Looking at just one group of fruit, I can also see that these clusters grow much differently than the leaves do. Each stem seems to have propagated several of these green puff balls and several long samaras (the actual fruit).


Even weirder is the way these stems grow. They don't branch off of a central stem in the lovely opposite pattern that I see repeated over and over in my tree. Nope. These flower stems seem to just shoot out in all directions from one spot, all crazy-like.


I have seen something like this in my own tree though. It's just like the "explosion of branches" that I noticed when I drew my tree back in February. While the twigs seem to have a very neat opposite pattern, the branches often look like this with five or six of them coming out from the same spot on one limb.

It also looks like the female tree is like the male ash tree in that it grows all of its flowers from the lateral buds along the side of the twig but its leaves from the terminal buds at the tips. See? There's the new shoot growing from the tip of the twig in the picture below. And the flower clusters are all coming out from the sides.


This arrangement with leaves over the fruit sort of reminds me of the maple trees with their big broad leaves making a canopy over the hanging helicopter fruit below. Does this leaf cover protect the fruit underneath in some way? The ash tree fruit looks tucked away behind the leaves. Do they not need as much light as the leaves do? Do they need any?

The fruit itself is long and thin and relatively uniform looking. Where is the seed, I wonder.


From the maple tree book, I learned that the wings of the samara are more for dispersion than for holding the seed. So will the seed be down near the stem? Is it in there already?

from flower to fruit: the horse chestnut

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Remember the beautiful flowers of the horse chestnut tree down the street?


I walk by the tree when I bring my kids to school each morning and pick them up every afternoon. After having seen how quickly other trees had lost their flowers, I'd been watching the lovely blooms of this tree to see how long they'd last and what would happen next. Early this month, the tree began losing its flowers.


But, interestingly, just the red ones. While the flowers with red centers were shriveling up and falling off, forming piles under the tree, those with yellow centers were still on their stems. The white petals with their eyelash-like thingies were falling away, leaving only yellow-green balls with a single filament sticking out. Five days later, there were no more signs of the red flowers at all.


So, are these the female flowers? Is this the fruit developing? You know, I've seen pictures of chestnuts where the spiny outer casing is green, just like these little things.


Are these little flower centers the beginning of chestnuts? They sure look like it!

ash fruit

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Time to check in with our girl down the street to see how she's doing with our ash tree fruit. (You may recall that the tree I'm watching is a male tree, so I have to visit the female tree on the next block to watch this part of the process.) On May 21st, I was able to spot a few of the female flowers just beginning to grow long leaf-like fruit.


Ten days later, there were many clusters of recognizable samaras (single-winged fruit, like half of a maple helicopter thingie).


They look like little oars for a paddle boat, don't they?! My favorite tree id site, What Tree is It?, points out the subtle differences between the fruit of different types of ash trees.


Judging from the fully formed fruit as it looks on the tree today, I'd say that our girl here is a white ash!


This is the same conclusion I made about my tree a month ago, when it seemed that the number of leaflets on the leaves on my tree could only mean that it is a white ash.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the fruit category.

flowers is the previous category.

galls and sticky burrs is the next category.

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