A blog about a first-time house owner learning to maintain his backyard, and thoughts about nature, science, history, and life.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leaves are Gone!

First, a quick programming note.  Now that winter is on the way and the days are much shorter, I'm not getting outside quite as much, which means that it's becoming a bit more difficult to find content for the blog each day.  I will likely be skipping days here or there rather than boring you with "filler" content.

For the most part, the leaves have fallen off of the trees...fall's colors now lie strewn about the ground.  But the stark, barren winter look of deciduous trees has its own beauty.  For one thing, it's easier to trace the bends and curves of the branches as they arch outward and upward - or downward - from the trunks of the trees.  The lack of leaves exposes the location of birds' nests - it's easy to see where birds prefer to make their homes, and where they prefer to live together.  And when the inevitable snows fall, the trees become more beautiful as their branches are dusted with white.

But the loss of leaves is practical for the trees, too.  As I've pointed out in an earlier blog post, chlorophyll is destroyed when the temperatures drop near or below freezing.  The loss of sunlight - both the decline in hours of sunlight each day and the reduced energy reaching the leaves due to the lower angle of the sun in the sky - makes the production of sugars less efficient.  And finally, the consequences of an early-season snowstorm - the snow weighing down the leaf-laden branches and the wind snapping those branches off - can take away years of growth for the tree.  The starkness of winter paves the way for rebirth: there's nothing quite so beautiful and inspiring and the first sprigs of green opening their way up for the first time in the spring.

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