I grew up without any seasonal changes, so I’m not a person to be disappointed by snowless winters, a lack of a real spring blossoming or colorful fall foliage. The process in which a tree goes from green to gold and then brown before become leafless is something I only read about in books. It also doesn’t help that my book knowledge of tree species is limited to elementary basics. I’m pretty sure I can identify your basic pine tree (although I will probably confuse it with the spruce and fir trees). I think I can tell the difference between a maple, oak, magnolia and birch, but I might get confused if you throw a beech or sassafras tree in front of me.
My first experience with true seasonal changes among these deciduous varieties was when I lived in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. The trees would begin to turn colors in early October and bursts of brilliant colors would cover the hills as we moved slowly from fall into winter. By December, the trees were appropriately bare and the weather would dip down near freezing on various nights.
Then I moved to Texas. The trees I have met in Lake Jackson, Texas during my year here were different from the ones I’ve seen up north. It doesn’t help that there is a curious blend of tropical plants and palm trees planted in the same neighborhoods with the oaks, maples and firs. They all seem to live and thrive well together for most of the year.
My confusion began when fall weather came upon us in a rush on a cold October morning. Perhaps these Texan trees are confused by the fact that October temperatures still resemble those of early August. Maybe they feel the peer pressure of their tropical counterparts to keep their leaves to themselves. After weeks of balmy weather, October temperatures dropped to near freezing leaving tropical plants crying out in misery. The rest of the trees seem to fall in three categories. The first group of trees turned to their fall colors in a flash. Their reds, oranges and yellows happily cried out, “Fall is here!” After a few weeks, these trees began dropping their leaves in accordance to Mother Nature.
The second group of trees was less decisive. They waited until the first group had long begun to lose their brown leaves before tentatively allowing some of their green robes to fade to yellow. Eventually, they would also catch up with their fall-happy partners and begin to lose their leaves as well.
The last group of trees is a bunch of stubborn oak trees that wait until spring before they realize that they have not updated their wardrobe. In a sudden rush, they work to remove the old leaves while pollinating at the same time. I learned that this is actually normal of the oak trees in our back yard as they deposit both leaves and a layer of yellow and brown dust on our back porch and lawn.
In any case, we have discovered that our biggest raking efforts need to be saved until mid-March when we finally are able to collect the last of the leaves that fall from our trees.
(Kids in the Yard – March 2013)