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

Bare Bones

After several hard freezes, the skeletal systems of trees and shrubs stand stark against the sky.cabinThis hunting cabin was on the property when we bought the place.  It required major renovation to be inhabitable.  Now we use it for extra guests.  This  Popular tree has survived many different droughts.

treePopular trees have a fascinating branch growth pattern.  The leaves rustling in the breeze soothes what ails a body.

treetrunkThe rough, thick bark can easily be peeled off.  Of course, that is not recommended,  but sometimes chunks get knocked off.

deadoatMany majestic Spanish Oaks stood tall in the yard of the stone cabin.  But many years of drought has felled all of them.  Spanish Oaks are not as hardy as some other oaks.  Extreme heat, lack of water, and oak blight has killed more oaks than can be counted across Texas.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/20/us-drought-trees-texas-idUSTRE7BJ20M20111220

Since I don’t want to sit and cry over them, for now I consider them as sculptures in the landscape.

fallintreesThey are all around the perimeter of the house.

deadtreeThankfully, they were not close enough to the house to fall on it.  One day we heard a loud whack as a huge branch fell from this tree.  We were grateful no one was standing nearby – especially our grand kids.

postThis is the remains of a hitchin’ post for horses.

mesquiteMesquites are considered a menace because they take water from other trees.  They are almost impossible to eradicate.  Everyone has a remedy to suggest.  But still they survive. pecan2The state tree is the pecan.  All the pecans have dropped from the husks.

tickle2This small native Texas tree is called Tickle Tongue (Zanthoxulum clava-herculis).  Other names include Hercules’Club, Prickly Ash, and Toothache tree.  When the leaves or bark are chewed, it numbs the inside of the mouth.  It’s said that native Indians and early pioneers used this tree to ease toothaches.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”  Hal Borland

Pops of Color

The warm weather continues with some record-breaking highs.  Still no rain.  Both of these circumstances are cause for concern around here.  And yet, some flowers in the yard are still hanging on.

This Bottle Brush Bush (Callistemon) was planted in the spring.  When it blooms, it is covered with bright red blooms.   But there are long periods in between these flowering times.  I’m not sure if that is characteristic or due to weather conditions here.

Today the blooms are not as full and colorful as they were earlier in the year.

The flowers really do look just like a brush used to clean narrow necked bottles.  It needs full sun, which is perfect for my yard.

Early in autumn, the first noticeable change in the Chinese Pitasche  (Pistacia chinensis) tree is the appearance of orangish red berries.

Then the leaves turn this golden color.

Finally,  the leaves sport a bright orange hue before they turn brown and drop off.

The golden leaves of this small elm have defied the wind and remained on the branches.

A Chinapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) in our yard is covered with orange and yellow leaves.  The color is seen on the branch in the left of the picture.  In the distance the burnt orange tree is a sumac.The blooms on this False Foxglove (Agalinis) surprised me the other day.  In the spring I transplanted it from a bar ditch on our county road.  Late spring is the normal blooming time for this wildflower.  I guess this warm weather and water from the sprinkler system has confused it.  But I’m so glad it survived the move.

Most of the leaves and blooms on this Morning Glory Tree (I. arborescens) bit the dust after the first freeze.  Just one branch bravely blooms on.

A Spanish Oak looks like it’s on fire in the late afternoon sun.

This is the third autumn for this Possum Haw, and the first time there have been berries.  I was beginning to worry that it was a male plant and wouldn’t produce berries.  They are smaller than I expected but a nice sight.

I wish I knew what kind of tree this is.  This one grows beside a county road near a dry creek bed.  I love the yellow berry clusters.

Update – a couple of readers tell me that this is a Chinaberry Tree.

The berries actually look like dry pods. It’s a smallish tree.  When you look up, it has great composition with a clear blue sky behind it and bunches of pale yellow berries at the ends of the branches.

“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.”  Hans Hoffman