Lost Maples

The last week in October, we visited Lost Maples, which is northwest of San Antonio.  Look how shallow and clear this stream is.  We crossed it many times over wobbly rocks.

This may be Texas Groundsel or Texas Squawweed(Senecio ampullaceus).

We were too early for the Maples to have turned, but hey, there’s color.  Okay, it’s Poison Ivy.

Several patches of this tiny star flower.

I showed a picture to a ranger, but she said that she was a paper pusher and didn’t know the plants.  Surprised me.  Anyone know?

Pretty sure this is Helmet Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia).  Lost Maples area has a much warmer winter than we do, so many of the wildflowers are different than ours.

Pretty little flower.

The flowers look like Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum).

This was growing lower to the ground than Boneset usually does.  But, of course, this doesn’t receive regular watering.

This looks like Frostweed (Verbesina virginica L.) to me.

Some tree color – yeah.  But it’s a Sumac, not a Maple.

These flowers look like little cotton bolls on tall stems.  Unknown to me.

What happened here?  Crazy.

This could be Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis).  Not sure if the leaves are correct, though.

A sign lead to a side path to see the “monkey rock”  Reminds me of one of those stuffed monkeys that have tambourines in their hands.   When wound up, they bang their hands together.

And we thought that we had rocks!  Well, we do.  Just different kind.  We have rough caliche rocks, while these are river rocks.

Don’t recognize the flowers.

Although we didn’t see lots of color, it was nice that it was a peaceful hike without the crowds that would be there when the maples turned.

When the sunlight hits grasses just right, it’s so pretty.  It’s easy to see why they have become popular as a landscape plant.  I’m just leery because I planted an Inland Oats in a pot a few years ago.  It spread like crazy.  Still, I find them scattered here and there in flowerbeds.

More red.  Five leaves, so I’m pretty sure it’s Virginia Creeper.

The hills are mostly covered with cedars or spruce.   The maples and other trees are in the valley.

There were several different trails available.  We choose a 3 mile one.  We had walked for one and an half hour when the trail left the flat land and headed upwards.  The trails all had loose rocks, even on the flat ground, so the footing was iffy.

The climb was steep with rocks requiring big steps up.  I was getting more unsure of continuing by the minute.  Then a younger couple than us came down a steep incline.  They had turned around and said it was very difficult up ahead.  That was all it took for us to turn around.

Back on fairly level ground.

Just what one would expect to see on a walk through the woods:  mushrooms growing on a decaying log.  Could be Polypore mushrooms.

Getting close to the parking lot.

While in the area, we stayed at The Lodges at Lost Maples.  The cabin was actually more spacious than it looks from the outside.  Very quiet, peaceful setting.

Loading up to head to San Antonio.  Noticed the Ball Moss hanging on the tree.  Some people say they aren’t harmful to the host plant.  But we saw some at Lost Maples Park that had killed the foliage on trees.

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  Oscar WildeSave

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Fall Color in All Its Glory

The conditions for leaves to turn color in the fall involve the right temperatures at the right times and the right amount of rainfall at the right times.  In the fifteen years that we’ve owned the property, there has been some color, but nothing like this year.  Just spectacular.

autumncolors3This first group of pictures were taken from a state highway as we were driving home from town.  Don’t you love the quaint setting?

autumncolorsSumacs are clustered close to the shed.

autumncolors1Old buildings pose questions to me.  I wonder about the people who lived there – their joys and sorrows.  They represent someone’s life.

autumncolors2All these buildings were on an old homestead.

autumncolors4This next group of pictures were taken on our county road.  All pictures in this post were made on a cloudy misty day.

autumncolors5For a half a mile, this road is flanked by dense trees and vegetation.  It feels like driving through a tunnel of trees.

autumncolors6Not sure if the red leaves are Red Oaks (Quercus texana) or Shin Oaks (Quercus sinuata).   Shin Oaks are also known as White Oak, Scrub Oak, Scalybark Oak or Bigelow Oak.  They tend to be low growing, about 3 to 5 feet tall, and grow so densely that they become a thicket.  They are native to areas that have hard limestone.

autumncolors8

autumncolorsaShiny from the moisture in the air.

autumncolorscThe thin yellow leaves are Prairie Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) with clusters of berries that the birds love.  They turn red first and fade into this paler color.

autumncolorsdThe trees thin out on this part of the road, partly because they have been cleared by county crews.  I think these are both Red Oaks.

It seems like the colors deepen and change daily or least weekly.

autumncolorseNow we are a mile from our gate entrance.

autumncolorsf

autumncolorsmThese photos are made from our front porch.  It’s raining a little harder now.

autumncolorsh

autumncolorsiA Chinese Pistache (Pistachia chinensis) in the yard is framed by a native Live Oak.

autumncolorsrIn the distance is a Lombardy Poplar tree in front of a stone cabin on our property.  We use it for extra guest space.  Poplars always seem old fashioned to me – probably because as a child I saw them on farms of relatives.  This tree was here when we bought the property.

autumncolorsjThe best view is from the back porch.  There are several ridges all around our land.  This fence is just around our house and barn to keep out cows and deer.  But everything shown in these photos is on our property.

autumncolorskA Red Oak in the side yard.  The trees in the yard are only two to ten years old.  We chose a building site on a level, raised area up from a creek because we wanted the view.  We’re so glad that we did because the creeks do rise when we get three or more inches in a day or so .

autumncolorsnThe ridge colors are more dramatic than the pictures show.

autumncolorslTo the left in the yard is a small Lacey Oak (Quercus laceyi or Quercus glaucoides).  Other common names include blue oak, canyon oak, mountain oak, smoky oak, and rock oak. Most of these common names refer to the tough conditions in central and south Texas where this species are native or are related to its blue–green foliage.

autumncolorsoThe views from inside the house let us enjoy each moment of this wonderful color.

Thank you for reading to this point and letting me share some of the reasons we love living here.  It is a privilege to live in the country after many years in the city.  Of course, there are some inconveniences, like no quick runs to a store for a forgotten item.  But that’s minor compared to the pluses.

“Every time you feel yourself being pulled into other people’s drama, repeat these words: ‘Not my circus, not my monkey’” Polish proverb

Autumn Trees

When fall color is mentioned, Northeastern US is what comes to my mind first.  People flock there every autumn to soak in the beauty of bright oranges, reds, golds and every shade in between.  Surprisingly, we have some of that gorgeous color right here in our own backyard.  It may not be as overwhelming or long lasting, but it is inspiring.

falltrees2Prairie Flameleaf Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) along the county roads are the first sign of cooler temperatures.  Their orangish red foliage and deep red brown berries signal that winter is coming.falltreesThe trees on the ridge behind our house can change color as early as mid October or as late as mid November.  This year it was late.  In fact, we wondered if there would be any color at all.

falltreeshThe red-orange color comes from Red Oaks and the yellow-orange from Spanish Oaks.

falltrees8Awesome.

falltrees6The lighter oranges or yellow trees are Mesquites or Elms.  Live Oaks and Juniper Cedars stay green all winter and provide a sharp contrast to the other colors.

falltreeskFrom the front of the house we see mostly cedars.

falltreesiThis huge tree is an example of why Texans love their Live Oaks.  The canopies spread out and provide needed shade.

For years, the county extension agents and aborists have recommended that only native trees be planted, with a strong emphasis on oaks.

falltrees5Here is a Texas Red Oak (Quercus buckleyi) that was planted nine years ago.

Red Oaks are in the red or black oak groups.  There are only 15 species in this group.  They typically produce acorns every two years.  Spanish Oaks are also in this group.

falltreescSuch beautiful color.

falltreesbThe brilliant golden red on this particular tree lasts for a good month.  But  we have another tree that was supposed to be a Red Oak that has no color.  The leaves on it turn brown early.  I now  suspect that it is a Pin Oak.  I’ve read that when young, it’s difficult to tell the two apart, and that nurseries often mislabel them.

falltreesfIn the early 1980’s the term Oak Decline took on a ominous meaning as groves of oaks died.  Since then, Oak blight or Oak Wilt has claimed thousands of trees in Texas.  So the powers that be have been recommending diversification.  They suggest planting other types of trees, even those that aren’t native, but have adapted well.

Oaks in the White Oak family have not yet succumb to Oak wilt, so those are still recommended.  The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) in the above picture falls into that category.  Others in the white oak family that will grow here are Lacey Oak, Bur Oak, Post Oak, and Bigelow Oak.  Bigelow is known as Shin Oak locally and forms thickets that usually only grow up to 10 feet tall.

falltreesdThis is a different Chinapin Oak in our yard.  Notice that the leaves on both trees do not look like a stereotypical oak leaf.

In Texas there are 23 oaks in the white oak group.  These produce acorns annually.

falltreeseThe two Chinapins that we have are tall and skinny looking.  It has taken several years for their branches to widen and have a fuller look.  But I still recommend them.

The benefits of trees form a long list.  Their beauty in different seasons is just one that I appreciate.

“Anyone who thinks women talk too much has never sat through a six-hour Super Bowl pregame show.”      Nora Barry

Autumn’s Gift

Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  The foliage colors have been the best this year.   The different shades of yellow, orange, reds… are everywhere.  I see them on the hills, in the pastures, and along the roads.

treescolorcHere’s a flash back to the 80’s:  a fad where ladies “had their colors” done.  It started with Color Me Beautiful by Carol Jackson.  The whole idea was to determine what season you were based on your skin tone and hair color.  The following is from the Color Me Beautiful website:

“Hello, Autumn,
Your natural coloring is fiery, earthy, golden and natural.  The Autumn palette is easy to remember if you think about a beautiful Autumn landscape.  You can wear both muted and rich warm colors like the autumn foliage or exotic spice colors.  You receive compliments in shades of the autumn season:  moss, rust, terra cotta.”

treescolor8Those are definitely not my colors to wear, but I love them in nature.

treescolor7This is the view from the back of our house.  On the hill, most of the reddish colors are Red Oaks or Spanish Oaks.

treescolor9The Elm, Hackberry, and Pecan trees have all been covered in yellow.  But I don’t think this yellow tree is any of them.

treescolorkThis a Chinapin Oak is in our backyard …

treescolor5and a leaf from a Texas Ash …

treescolor4and a Red Oak in the front yard.

treescolorgThe Sumacs are so vivid that they are like magnets drawing my eyes to them.

treescolortreescolor2More Sumacs with their seed clusters.

treescolor3A Chinese Pistacho in the front yard framed by a Live Oak behind it.

treescolorfA Shrub Oak along a county road.

treescolordThe whole color spectrum from red to orange to yellow dot the landscape.

I can’t stop taking pictures.  Everywhere I look deserves a photo.

treescolorzA yellow Popular forms an exclamation mark saying look at the beauty around you.

Okay.  I am forcing myself to stop.   This whole season has been such a treat.

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.”  Faith Baldwin

Autumn Fields

Most of the autumn tree color here comes from Spanish Oaks, Texas Red Oaks, Sumacs, Elms, and Pecans.  The elms and pecans with their yellowing leaves are not showy enough to be seen from distances and don’t last long.

Leaves changing color in the fall is based on temperature, moisture, and shorter days.  It more complicated than I can explain.  But two of these factors are problematic here.  We’re behind in our average rainfall of 27-28″, and there’s been no rain since September 29.  Our temperatures are not consistent.  It might be cold one day and hot for several days before another cool one.  It’s amazing there’s any color here at all.

These are either Prairie Sumac or Texas Sumac.  Not sure which.

The yellow among all the juniper is a Spanish Oak.

Another Sumac.

Some of the Sumacs on our property produce these clusters of berries.  Others do not.  I’m not sure if this is a female/male trait or because they are different kinds of Sumacs.

Some have brilliant color like this one, while others are sort of drab.

We do not notice any flowers that precede the berries.

The berries look like flower turfs until viewed very close.  Even though we enjoy the color of Sumacs every year, their characteristics remain a mystery to me.

There are also all sorts of grasses on the property.  A few I can identify.  Some grow in isolated clumps like this one.  Others are taller and cover entire fields and sway in the wind like the prairie grasses the early pioneers described.   The grasses blew like waves and the schooners looked like sailing ships crossing the desert.

Native American Seed http://www.seedsource.com is a good place for information and to order wildflower and grass seeds for the southwest.

One of the first blooming plants in the spring and the last to die after a freeze is Prairie Verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida).  My grandmother called them “Sweet William”.

They grow flush against the ground and spread out.  With some rain In the summertime, they create a carpet of purple.

Very pretty flowers that are as hardy as the day is long.

Many people from southwestern states book a tour to see the fall foliage in the Northeast.  I’ve heard it’s a great trip.  The tree colors here aren’t as bold and dramatic, but we enjoy them each autumn.

“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees; then names the streets after them.”  Bill Vaughan