Gone

November 24, 2020

I have mentioned going outside and seeing the street sweeper, but the real purpose was to comply with Melissa’s request to look at the Snowball bush (Hydrangea arborescens).  While it had valiantly tried to sport flowers the last two weeks (one cluster only), this week it finally decided to call it quits and acknowledge that fall was here and winter was approaching fast.  Even in defeat its leaves had turned a beautiful red.  I had to admit, it was a lot prettier than the street sweeper.

I went online to get the explanation for why the leaves of deciduous trees change colors.  The pigment that causes leaves to be green is chlorophyll, and this is the substance that allows plants to make food using sunlight (photosynthesis).  During spring and summer when there is plenty of sunlight, plants make a lot of chlorophyll.  When it starts to get cold, plants stop making chlorophyll and break the existing chlorophyll into smaller molecules.  As chlorophyll goes away, other pigments start to show their colors.  That is why the leaves turn yellow or red in fall.  Since the leaf is no longer producing chlorophyll, the tree takes the nutrients back into the stems and roots.  The leaves die and then fall off the tree.

We had a large Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the back yard of our house at the conference center where I was director.  I knew this was a conifer but had never been around one until the camp.  These trees have needles that change color in fall and then drop from the branches. They are deciduous conifers and behave just like leafy deciduous trees, such as the maples and oaks I was used to.  When it happened the first year, I thought the tree had died.  I was pleasantly surprised to see it restored to health the following spring.

Thoughts:  Since we have been traveling through the Boston Mountains every week, we have been able to watch as the tree leaves turned from green to the luxurious golds and reds.  It has gotten colder at night and the wind has picked up, and the leaves are gone.  Death and rebirth are a constant process in the biomes of life.  The death of the leaves returns much needed nutrients back to the soil to be absorbed by the roots to produce new leaves the following spring.  While this works great on a macro level (the tree), it is not so much for the individual leaves.  We seem to be in a time of caring more about the leaf (oneself) than the tree (others).  We are stronger together than as one. Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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