Tag Archives: Autumn

TAMARACKS: Trees of Smoky Gold

6 Nov

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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The wind-swept, snow-laced dawn of November did not bring a total end to the magnificent kaleidoscope of colors that bathed October woodlands in the raw beauty of seasonal change. The brilliant leaves of sassafras, red maple and sugar maple are now huddled together on the forest floor offering shelter to tiny creatures underneath. Oak leaves are now brown and crackle in cold winds, but they do not fall to the ground until spring, for that is their way. Yet, in our healthy wetlands, a tree of subtle and brilliant beauty has reached peak color and seemingly illuminates the landscape at sunrise. Again at sunset, the view calls to mind shimmering lanterns of smoky gold.  The tamarack tree (Larix laricina), also known as the American Larch, went virtually unnoticed and unsung, until now. Continue reading

Witch Hazel: Mystery Tree That Flowers in October

22 Oct

The Wilder Side of Oakland County

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The witch hazel tree is a small, hidden in plain sight, understory tree with gnarly-looking branches. Perhaps one of the strangest and least recognized native trees of Oakland County, it thrives in most parks with rich woodlands. Witch hazel spans the American countryside, from the deep forests of Maine and the Green Mountains of Vermont, to the hills and hidden hollers of the Appalachian Mountains, down into the lowland forests of the South.

With Halloween just around the corner, this tree, with a delightful mix of myth, mountain lore and scientific fact, is flowering right on schedule. Unlike most northern plants, that select spring as the season of blooms, the witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) waits until the cool, short days of October to produce delicate clusters of spidery, fragrant, yellow flowers. Few, however, notice the flowers, for they are lost in kaleidoscopes of rich colors in the woodlands on the wilder side of Oakland County. But when the strangely beautiful, little blossoms are framed by a dramatic backdrop of red maple leaves in their deep crimson finery, they draw the human eye and make one wonder what the previously unnoticed blooms might be.

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Fantastic Forest Fall Fungi

8 Oct

WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY

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The River Loop Trail of Independence Oaks County Park is a perfect gateway to autumn color.

An eye-catching world of fungal wonders has emerged in the woodlands and forests of Oakland County and much of the rest of our Pure Michigan State. No matter where you hike in the days of October, if there are trees and the forest floor is moist, mushrooms may be found. Some of these colorful mushrooms, the fantastic fungi of the golden days of October, make one wonder if perhaps they have not entered a secret world of elves and fairies.

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