Monday, October 24, 2022

Autumn's Splendor Still Persists!

Occupied as I've been by obligations that kept me out of the woods and off the river for far too long, I was afraid I had missed much of the splendid but ephemeral beauty of autumn here in Saratoga County. Thankfully, much of that beauty still persists, as I discovered yesterday while walking a powerline high on a mountainside above the Hudson River.

The shorn vegetation under the power lines reveals the voluptuous curves of the land, rendered kaleidoscopically colorful by autumn-altered native grasses and ferns and wildflower remnants.

Acres of pale-tufted Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) outlined the plunging curve of this steep hillside.

Here's a closer view of the fluffy tufts that catch the light among the Little Bluestem Grass's stems.

Although most of the masses of Hay-scented Ferns (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) that thrive on this mountainside have dried to a rich cinnamon brown by now, a few curving fronds retained their bright-green color.

The silken tufts of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) are readying to waft the seeds on the air.

I was surprised to find a few fresh-looking flowers amid the otherwise gone-to-seed plants of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).

A carpet of golden leaves covered the ground beneath a stand of Quaking Aspens (Populus tremuloides), and most of them bore the tell-tale green patches that indicate the larva of a tiny moth of the Ectoedemia genus is living within.  This larva secretes an anti-senescent substance that prevents the chlorophyll from retreating from part of the leaf, so that some of the leaf remains alive long enough for the larva to continue feeding until it is ready to pupate for the winter. The adult moth will emerge from the leaf in the spring.

As I descended one mountainside height to ascend to another, I passed through this open woods brightly colored by Red Maple saplings (Acer rubrum).

This height offered spectacular views of the multi-colored mountains across the Hudson River.

I ascended this particular height because I knew I would find here some abundant stands of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).  This native grass forms tall clumps of golden leaves, topped with lacy sprays of finely textured seedheads.  The prairie-like conditions under some powerlines provide the ideal conditions for this gorgeous grass to thrive.

Here's another clump of that lovely Switchgrass, this one with leaves a more vibrant yellow, set within masses of Tall Goldenrod's pale and fluffy floral remnants.

Here was another spectacular grass (Foxtail?), whose curving seedheads and sunny-yellow color looked so beautiful against a backdrop of gorgeous autumn foliage as far as the eye could see.

More autumn gorgeousness awaited as I made my way home along the river road.

While driving over Mt. McGregor, I pulled over near a small cattail swamp to enjoy the beauty of this Witch Hazel shrub (Hamamelis virginiana) in full and abundant flower.

In that same little swamp, I was delighted to note that the Winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata) were abundant with fruit this year.  These scarlet berries will persist well into the winter, to provide not only food for wild creatures when other sources grow scarce, but also great beauty for us humans to enjoy, long after this splendid autumn has yielded to snowy cold.


Bill and dogs said...

Beautiful! Thank you for brightening my morning.

threecollie said...

I've been thinking about leaves this fall as I watch the colors change. Besides feeding us and making life possible they give us so much pleasure for most of the year and a certain sadness in their winter absence. Great post as always.

Kathy said...

Love seeing the grasses against the fall leaves color!
And here I was telling you about all the witch hazel blossoms I was seeing lately. Nothing like what you show in your photo!
Thanks for sharing these.

Kathy E