Bright Lights of Autumn

All too often the hustle and bustle of every day life can cause us not to notice what’s going on outside our windows. Since moving to a more rural spot nine years ago there’s no doubt that I’m far more aware of the changes that come with a new season. It’s not just the weather that shifts, the wood behind our house smells different in autumn: rich, woody and a little like mushrooms. It’s a good smell, especially when it mingles with the whiff of woodsmoke from an open fire.  In September and October, as the earth shifts and the sun is lower in the sky, the light seems golden. When the sun is at its lowest in the depths of winter the light is just as beautiful: watery and delicate.

There’s no doubt that it’s the changes in the plants and trees that I’m most aware of as the countryside settles into Autumn though. The bright, sometimes fire-like colours are from carotenoids and anthocyanins within the leaves. They are always there but are unmasked as the predominant pigment, green chlorophyll, begins to break down. In the US and Canada the Autumnal/Fall leaf colour is a genuine tourist attraction and ‘Leaf Peeping’ is a serious business. The maples are a particular attraction. The Sycamore is the maple’s slightly less spectacular cousin but still worth looking for here in the UK. Along with seeing the Northern Lights, visiting New England in the Fall is one of the things I’m most keen to do.

A favourite autumnal plant to seek out is the Virginia/Boston Creeper (Parthenocissus). The colours of the leaves are so bright as to be astonishing. There’s a particular specimen that grows near a favourite local playpark and my youngest can never resist bringing some leaves home. Cherry trees put on a breathtaking show aswell. Both my little ones love to sort the colourful leaves they find and to use them to make pictures. I’m secretly delighted that they seem to enjoy this activity as much as they love watching Scooby Doo.

Do you have a favourite Autumnal plant or tree?

Thanks for reading!

9 responses to “Bright Lights of Autumn

  1. My current favourite is Euonymus europaeus, seen recently at RHS Wisley in its full pink-and-orange berried glory – although I’m with you on the Virginia Creeper. Living in an urban environment, the contrast of cascades of bright red and orange leaves hanging over grey concrete is just breathtaking! The children love to collect leaves on walks across the nearby Heath – the bigger ones make great flags for waving!

  2. I love Spindle berries too :-) But my favourite has to be the Field Maple – I love the butter-yellow colour of the leaves against a blue sky and the fallen leaves look like golden stars on the footpaths.
    Celia x

  3. Celia, you’re responsible for me knowing about field maples and I’ve been spotting them in the hedgerows in recent weeks. Thankyou! I agree, they’re absolutely beautiful and I love the tiny scale of their leaves, aswell as the colour.

  4. I love the huge beech tree outside my bedroom window – this year the colour has been very intense and glowing in our rather dull and wet days. My boys love to print with leaves too.

  5. I love the way the leaves on the Liquidamber change like traffic lights from top to bottom of the tree. There is one in my friend’s garden, and every year I wait eagerly for it to start it’s light show. Fabulous.

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