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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 this...

October 10th 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!

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.

it's fall, do you know what your tree is doing?

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So on this first day of fall, we know what the ash trees are up to but what about the other trees? 

Well, the maples, which have revealed themselves to be among the first trees to respond to the changing seasons, are really progressing. One maple at the boys' school is almost entirely red!


Why is this tree so red? Does a small tree change faster? What gets a tree going earlier than other trees? Earlier even than other maple trees? And what causes a tree to turn red instead of yellow? Is it very individual, like hair color or eye color? Or is it more closely related to the tree species? Maybe this specific maple species turns really red. Hmm.....

The oak trees were among the last to get started growing leaves in the spring. And, no surprise, they are still as green as they have been all summer. I had to look hard to find these three dead leaves on an oak by the park.


So I'm sensing a pattern here. Early to rise, early to bed. The trees that grew leaves early in the spring are changing colors earlier in the fall. Am I right?

The kooky honey locusts are also still very green. (Hey, they were also very late getting their leaves!) But while their leaves are still green, the seedpods are turning dark yellow and look like they are drying out. They kind of remind me of snake skin after the snake is done molting.


And then there's the chestnut that's been looking like camouflage for the last couple of weeks. Some of the leaves are now completely red and curled up.


Are those ready to drop?!

What are the trees in your neighborhood doing?

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 honeylocust, still a mystery

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Okay, so these are the trees I've been calling honey locusts. They're all up and down our streets around here. They're weird. But they are fascinating too.

For example, the growth on this one twig is over two feet long! The green stem of the new growth actually starts under the bunch of leaves on the left!



And look at the perfectly alternate arrangement of the compound leaves.


Left then right. Right then left. Cool!

And on another honey locust a few blocks away, I found a bug party.


Ew. I was looking at the leaves and spotted this mass of tiny black bugs. There were also a few ants crawling around on top of these smaller bugs. Are these maybe the aphids that I read about?

But what I never find on any of these honey locusts are flowers or fruit. Why not? If they are all male trees, they would have had some pollen-producing flowers. If they are female trees, they would be growing some fruit. The honey locusts did develop their leaves very late, so maybe they just haven't gotten to the flowers and fruit stage yet. I did, however, spot a couple of trees on another side of the street that I thought were also honey locusts and they are covered with flower/fruit clusters.


Is this also a honey locust? Is it ahead of the others? Is it a female tree? Or is it something else entirely? The brown things hanging down appear to be dried up flowers. Maybe it's a male tree? But the white parts left behind look like female parts where the fruit would begin to grow.


Wait, are those leaves really the same leaves as the honey locusts above? I'm so confused now! I'm no longer sure if these trees are all the same or are honey locusts at all. While I was looking for clues, my daughter decided that whatever they are, their fallen branches make for fabulous royal scepters.


All hail, queen of the trees! On her way to the playground.

shade tree

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Lookie, my tree makes shade now! It's pretty good shade too. Even with those dead branches.

I've started looking at the shade from other trees now. Not that I'm comparing or anything. Wink. Wink. This is the shade from the next tree down the street, a honey locust.


I'm impressed with the shade I see under the honey locusts. Their long compound leaves are made up of leaflets that are quite small and they're more spread out than the leaves on my ash. The canopy just doesn't look as full and thick as that of an ash tree. And yet, the shade is pretty darn shady. This particular honey locust is bigger than my ash, but the shade is definitely comparable.

And then there's the next tree down the street, a little sycamore.


This is the cutest little tree. I was surprised by how sparse the leaves were when they finally arrived. Just individual little simple leaves on branches that don't seem to want to come together to close up the gaps. The canopy is much more open than even the honey locust. But even for so little a tree, there is still a nice amount of shade there. Certainly enough to provide some relief during a walk home on a hot summer day.

a springtime walk among the trees

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Back in February, I took a walk through the neighborhood to look at trees. I saw interesting bark and different types of buds and a lot of snow. This weekend, we had our first non-rainy day in about two weeks, so I popped the camera in my pocket and set off on a springtime neighborhood tree walk.

I spotted the kooky honey locusts, finally starting to green.


And discovered a group of birds flitting about in them. Apparently, they do not find the twisted, gnarled twigs as spooky looking as I do.


Speaking of birds, I spotted this in a tree by our parking space.


A nest!


I haven't seen any birds around it yet, but the car has been covered with their droppings in the last couple of weeks. I actually get kind of excited each time I come to the car and see new bird poop on it. I start searching up in the trees to see if the birds have returned to their nest!

The trees by our parking space are an interesting bunch. There's the Norway maple that I've been watching and the tree with the incredibly long roots. The root tree looks almost bare among its green neighbor trees.


But if you follow the branches up, they end in lovely orange-y leaves.


I have no idea what kind of tree it is. It seems to have compound leaves similar to my tree's, but they're so high that I can't distinguish any of the details.

Closer to the kids' school, there is another tree that has intrigued me for the last couple of weeks. I don't know what kind it is either, but it has heart-shaped leaves all along every branch.


I have to admit that I originally thought leaves would come out everywhere on a tree, but now that I've looked closer at trees, I can see that they are usually on the tips of the branches, leaving the bark bare. This tree, with its almost vine-like covering of leaves, reminds me of an extremely hirsute man with hair where it shouldn't be. Each of those leaves is directly attached to the branch with one stem. The tree seems to have no need for twigs at all!

Another tree that amazes me is this one, with enormous leaves the length and shape of my foot and huge clusters of flowers that hold themselves straight up on the twig.


The flowers have pretty little red and yellow dots in the center.


I think this might be a Horse chestnut tree. It is magnificent.

On my way back home, I was surprised by the full canopy on this ash tree just a block away from my house.


This ash is a good two or three weeks ahead of the others on the street. It looks fully developed, whereas mine definitely looks like it's still just getting started.


Now that the leaves are arriving, I can tell just how many of the branches on my tree are dead. There are whole sections, maybe a third of the tree, that remain completely bare.

I wonder if my tree will ever fill out like the ash down the street.
I wonder how the honey locusts will look when they have all their leaves.
I wonder when the horse chestnut will lose its flowers and begin to drop chestnuts all over the street.
I wonder when the birds will return to their nest and when they will leave it again.
This spring, I've been watching the slow awakening of deciduous trees, you know, the trees that lose their leaves in the fall and grow them back in the spring. But there are some trees that stay green all year round: conifers. Back in my second post, I mentioned that all I know about conifers I learned from They Might Be Giants. I knew that conifers didn't lose their needles in the fall, but I hadn't really thought about what happens to them in the spring. Until last week, when I walked by some bushes and noticed that they had developed bright little light green tips.


How cute is that?! It's like highlights! This must be new growth. You can even spot some little brown bud-like bits at the base of the new growth. I wonder how similar their development is to the deciduous trees I've been following?


Elsewhere in trees-that-do-not-behave-like-the-ones-I've-been-watching are the weirdest trees on my street: the honey locusts. At least I think they are honey locusts. They have been the slowest trees to start blooming around here and are just starting to get their leaves now. At the end of April, when my tree was full of pollen-covered flowers and the Norway maples were bringing bright green to the whole neighborhood, they looked like this...


The honey locusts have these uneven zigzag branches that make them look super creepy. They remind me of the spooky forest that Dora the Explorer constantly has to tiptoe through to get to the other side. In the winter, they looked almost pitch black.


Honey locusts are actually even creepier than this. Regular honey locust trees have thorns. And not like little rose thorns. These are big, menacing thorns that look like something from the age of the dinosaurs (which they very well may be!).


The variety that is planted for shade in the city is thornless, however. Earlier this month, I spotted a honey locust a few blocks away that had started developing its leaves a little earlier than the ones on my street and noticed that it too had thorns. Only on the branches though, thank goodness!


Even if they aren't growing thorns out of their trunks, the honey locusts around me are growing small twigs (like the one above) and flowers and leaves directly out of the trunk. Here's one honey locust a block away from me back at the end of April.


The little buds are coming straight out of the trunk! They seem to be coming out at spots where there are these knots. I wonder if they have created the knots by repeatedly sprouting here or if they are growing here because the bark is somehow different here. And it's not just this tree. All the honey locusts have these buds growing on the trunk. Even the youngest one.


Three weeks later, the little buds have developed into leaves and flowers.


These are the same leaves and flowers that are growing up in the branches. I just can't get over the fact that they are growing down here as well. There's something about this kind of tree, it seems, that just wants to grow wacky stuff out of everywhere.

The honey locust has long compound leaves with what looks like 15 or so leaflets and I know from my kids tree id book that it makes the crazy long seedpods (up to 18" long!) that we see all over the sidewalks around here in the fall.

It's a weird tree. For more about the honey locust, check out this post from BiologyDude.

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About this Archive

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

girls vs. boys is the previous category.

leaves is the next category.

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