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Treebeard's Stumper
3 November 2000

Beautiful Death

We missed fall colors in Washington D.C., though we saw a few early trees that had already turned bright yellow and red. Our local California trees are mostly evergreen, though we also have deciduous trees that are now starting to turn color before they drop their leaves for winter. The stumper is not why these trees drop their leaves while other trees don't. That's just one of nature's many successful strategies. But why do deciduous trees make a show of their autumn leaves? The leaves are dying. How does it benefit the tree that they are also beautiful?

Looking south into the low autumn sun towards the remote confluence of Mono Creek and the upper Santa Ynez River. The golden trees are mostly Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii). This area is a protected Critical Habitat for endangered Least Bell's Vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) birds. It should be protected. Hiking into this magical forest reminds me of the trip through Mirkwood in The Hobbit. Barka Slough at the mouth of San Antonio Creek on Vandenberg AFB is the only place like it.
These Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) leaves along the North Umpqua River in Oregon have more intense fire colors than the Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) in our local Santa Barbara canyons.
These yellow Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) leaves are not so pretty up close, as insects and fungi take their toll. Deciduous autumn leaves are dying, so why are they also so beautiful?
These photos are slightly enhanced to bring out the fall colors.
For some reason, my Olympus 320 digital camera doesn't pick
up autumn leaf colors very well. Is this another stumper?


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Copyright © 2000 by Marc Kummel /