Cover photo by Karine Thate. Written by Jaclyn Roth.
It’s peak foliage season in the Fells!
September 23 marked the autumnal equinox. The change in season brings lower temperatures and photoperiodism, the process of leaves changing colors. While the environment adapts to these changes, some members of the daisy family (Asteraceae) will continue to bloom with the final vestiges of sun. Asters, particularly those that are blue, mauve, and white, and goldenrods are colorful throughout the woods, particularly along paths with direct sunlight. Joe-Pye-weed, a tall pink goldenrod-esque plant, and Butter-and-Eggs, a member of the snapdragon family, are also in bloom along sunny paths. Turtlehead, a native plant to the Fells, can be found next to streams deep in the woods. Witch Hazel, which has black pointed hats with yellow flower clusters looking like thin fingers, begins to bloom this time of year.
One may also find flowers on low blueberry bushes. While the main flowering time is in May and blueberries yield in July, this fruit will pursue a second crop in optimal conditions. There are many woodland mushrooms too. Many mistake Ghost Pipes, a tall white plant that lives off decaying matter on the earth floor, as a fungus. This colorless saprophyte is common in the Fells, particularly after rainfall.
Galls are bountiful this season. There are five different types of them – those created by insects, bacteria, and fungi along with those created by nematodes and plants. Mites and insects, including wasps, are the most common creator of galls. Galls serve as both a home and a food source.
Oak trees are the most common type of tree in the Fells. As they often hybridize and their bark evolves throughout their lifespan, these trees can be challenging to differentiate. White oak is identified by their rounded leaves and longitudinal bark with intersections. Red oak has sharper leaves with ridges and bark that resembles ski slopes. Black oak contains more circular-like leaves and the bark looks like separate islands. As leaves change color, red maples are plentiful around damp areas or alongside bodies of water.
Bird migration increases in the fall. Wood pewees, white-breasted nuthatches, and black-throated blue warblers can be found passing through on their migratory path. Turtles can be found sunbathing on partially submerged rocks, as they hatch during the fall before laying dormant beneath the mud. Take a stroll around Long Pond to see if you can catch any turtles before the weather gets much colder!
There’s much to see in the Fells this fall. On your next visit, make sure to bring a pair of binoculars and pay close attention to your surroundings to identify the beautiful flora and fauna this time of year.