Environmental Education

Fall Foliage and Tree Identification

Autumn is one of the best times to identify trees using their foliage colors. Each species of tree turns color in its own time, making it easy to pick them out in the landscape. First, we see the Sugar maples beginning to turn yellow-orange and the Red maples right behind, turning red as you might expect. Locust trees turn yellow early and are among the first to lose their leaves. The Flowering dogwoods, common to both yards and forested areas, show maroon leaves with bright red berry clusters favored by winter bird residents including cardinals, titmice, juncos, and waxwings.

Hawthorn species also have bright red fruits at this time of year, as do apple and plum trees. Birds and mammals eat the fruit and spread the seed in fertilized piles. The uncommon Black tupelo is beginning to show fiery red hues. And the blueberries of the Virginia creeper, feed migrant bluebirds, thrushes, vireos, warblers, and even Wild turkey.

Most leaves will fall a week or so after turning. In mid-October, look for the yellows of hickory and birch as well as the multi-hued tones of Sassafras, a gorgeous tree with three distinctive leaf shapes. Later in the month, look for the golden-brown American beech, which holds its papery leaves all winter, and the assortment of native oaks. White oak turn yellow, Black oak turn yellow-orange, and Red oak turn reddish. The shrubby Maple-leaved viburnums will show maroon leaves, and invasive burning bush will boast bright reds. Native blueberries, which also turn red, are a better alternative for home landscaping.

This Sunday, October 7 join us on a Fall Foliage Hike, a moderate 3-mile walk through the woods. Meet at Lewisboro Town Park upper parking lot, Rte 35, South Salem at 10 am and experience and enjoy the beauty of autumn.

Written by: Krista Munger

Monarchs Are On The Upswing

Seen more monarch butterflies lately?

It seems so. Their sad saga is well known–a population collapse of over 90% in a few short years as the milkweed plant they depend upon is wiped out by Roundup herbicide. But citizens, land trusts, and even states have responded with ‘pollinator pathways’–gardens, roadsides, and parks planted with milkweed and other natives. At Old Field Preserve in Lewisboro, we saw over a dozen colorful monarchs in a sea of milkweed, goldenrod, and asters that had until recently been nothing but invasive shrubs. We counted 16 monarch caterpillars on a single orange milkweed in our garden.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps not. The monarch may follow the remarkable recovery of the coontie hairstreak butterfly. Famed wildlife ecologist Doug Tallamy told us, at a Lewisboro Land Trust lecture, that the coontie hairstreak was considered extinct until recently. This Florida native is wholly dependent on the coontie plant, a plant that nearly disappeared due to over-harvesting. But in 1979, a lone butterfly colony was found on an island off Miami.

Coincidentally, real estate developers there were being encouraged to landscape with native plants, one of which was the coontie. The plant came back, the butterfly came back. It can happen if we give nature a chance.

Common milkweeds are nice, but orange, swamp, and purple milkweed are even better with fantastic flowers that last a good part of the summer. Collect or buy the seeds now, sprout them in damp paper towels, place in baggies in springtime and wait for the monarch show.

Author: Jim Nordgren