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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!

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!

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?

oak tree

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I've been wondering about the oak trees. They were late to start developing leaves. Well, later than my ash tree and the maple trees. But I did notice when they got their flowers and leaves and began littering the ground with their pollen in May (a couple of weeks after my tree dropped all of its flowers). Unfortunately for me, however, the oak trees in the neighborhood are quite a bit higher than the other trees. I haven't been able to get a good look at their leaves or twigs or anything! Then on Monday, Mother Nature helped out once again by leaving a fallen oak twig right on my path to the boys' school. You know what happened next (anyone keeping count of how many of these things I've dragged home so far? I hope not.)

So let's take a closer look at an oak tree, shall we?


The oak leaf. I love the rich green color! And this thing is as large as my entire hand! That's pretty big for a single (not compound) leaf! Now, I never would have been able to identify an oak tree by its leaves before my science class. And it wasn't that we learned about oak leaves either. We had just started this tree project and were asked to draw a twig. I chose the only twig on the table that still had leaves on it - brown, shriveled leaves (well,it was January!).


Someone told me it was from an oak tree. And from then on, I could recognize the oak trees by the dried-up, curled-up lobed leaves hanging from the twigs. But I hadn't ever had a fresh, green one in my hand before. Now that I had the real thing, I was able to go to my favorite tree site and identify it better.


So it looks like I could have White oaks in my neighborhood, although my twig's leaf doesn't have lobes that are quite as long as those drawn here. That's the closest choice though. Definitely an oak. UPDATE: Wait a minute! The twig could be from a Red oak! If perhaps the tips of the lobes on the leaves were once "bristled" (which seems to mean pointy) before they got all brown and yucky, then that would make them Red oaks.


So, look at how the little veins in the leaf all come out of that center line. They're arranged in an alternate pattern (one on one side then one on the other side a little ways up). And lookie, that's also exactly how the leaves grow on the twig!!


How cool is that?! I love how these patterns seem to repeat over and over in a tree's structure. (I love that about my ash tree too, with it's opposite arrangement of twigs and leaves - everything in pairs, always in pairs).

Another thing I found impressive: the twig above is almost all new growth! Just that tiny tip at the bottom is gray and bark-like. That's a lot more than my ash tree twigs have grown this year. Do oaks grow more each year than ashes? Do larger trees have more growth each year? 

I found another twig on the ground that had several smaller offshoots with smaller leaves and each one of them also has growth longer than that on the twigs of my ash.


And growing just above each stem where a new leaf is attached is a tiny bud, just like on my ash tree!


And at the tip, there are three of them.


Wait, are those buds or maybe acorns? Where are the acorns? Will they come later? Are they on older twigs? Oooh, I want to see acorns!

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About this Archive

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

meet the tree is the previous category.

other trees is the next category.

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