Friday, October 16, 2009

Warm Colors for a Cold Paddle

I expected to wake to snow on the ground, after all the dire forecasts I heard last night. But lo! this morning the sun was shining brightly out of a clear blue sky! Cold, yes, down in the 40s, but still warm enough for a paddle on the Hudson. Opportunities for this pleasure grow ever more rare as the cold closes in, so I jumped at the chance and headed out.

It was cold and windy out on the river, but I stayed close to shore. The gold and bronze color of the Beeches gave the illusion of warmth as I passed under boughs leaning over the water.

The same goes for Sassafras. We are lucky to have this southern forest tree here along the Hudson. It adds its distinctive foliage hues to our northern forest's autumn display.

The Witch Hazel shrubs were enjoying the sunshine today, with all of their ribbony petals unfurled. I thought of tiny cheerleaders shaking their pompoms, shouting Hooray! A bright sunny day!

There's an apple tree that grows almost horizontally along the bank, so I can paddle underneath and look up through the boughs and enjoy the contrast of yellow fruit against a blue, blue sky.

I also delighted in these puffs of Virgin's Bower seedheads. Their silken filaments glinted in the sun, and I loved all the sinuous curves of the interior tendrils. Be sure to click on this photo to see these puffs in detail.

The Fringed Loosestrife that masses along these banks has turned the most lovely coppery color, with seedheads like little brass balls set in stars.

The Dwarf St. Johnswort has turned a deep rosy red.

And talk about RED! The orange husks of these Climbing Bittersweet berries have retracted to reveal the glossy, intensely colored fruit inside. Note that this is not that pesty Asiatic Bittersweet that strangles trees wherever it grows, but our native American kind that minds its manners. It's becoming harder and harder to find as its alien cousin usurps its habitat.

Now, here's an alien plant that's not pesty at all, but welcome wherever we find it, especially in spring when we can cut its spears and enjoy them steamed with butter. Escaped to open areas from our gardens, Aparagus is not only good to eat, it's also very pretty, with lacy foliage and bright red berries in the fall. I found it growing along the road as I walked my canoe back to my car.


Ellen Rathbone said...

Beautiful bittersweet! I planted two vines about seven years ago, and they are essentially no bigger than they were the day I planted them. This goes against everything every horticulturist has told me ("oh, they grow like weeds!"). Must be the really crappy soil I have in that part of the yard! I had visions of bittersweet climbing the fence and making a lovely hedge. Well...maybe 100 years from now...

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Ellen, I wonder if those horticulturalists were confusing the native honeysuckle with the Asian kind, which does "grow like a weed" and cover everything in its path. I have never seen the native species grow very abundantly, usually a single scraggly vine leaning against some other shrub, like honeysuckle.