The Leaves, They are a Changing

     It seems a little early for the trees to be changing their colors and it is.  The maple trees are a brilliant shade of red and a number of the birch and aspen have begun their transformation as well.  The early color changes are most likely due to the dry conditions we have experienced so far this summer.  The following information is from the Minnesota DNR.

… early coloration in other tree species can mean the tree is stressed, either from a disease or physiological stress, such as lack of water or too much of it — the former being the probable case in Cook County. As a result, these trees will shut down operations for the year before other individuals of the same species. For example, stressed maples are prone to early coloration and will change color up to a month earlier than their healthy counterparts.   

<%image(20070831-fallsarah.jpg|250|167|Fall Colors on the Gunflint Trail)%>

   Leaves normally begin to change from green to their fall colors in mid to late September.  Trees stop making chlorophyll as the days become shorter and the nights become longer.  The lack of green chlorophyll allows the tree’s leaves to show their true colors in the fall. 

     There are a few legends involving the changing color of leaves in the fall.  Some say Jack Frost paints the leaves various colors in the fall.  One Indian legend as to why leaves lose their green color involves the slaying of the Great Bear by celestial hunters.  The red is said to come from the dripping of the bear’s blood and the yellow from fat spattering as the hunters cooked the meat.  Another Indian Legend is as follows.

There is an old Native American legend that explains why leaves change color in the autumn before carpeting the floors of the forest. In the time before man walked the earth, the Great Spirit sent the animals and the trees to prepare for his coming. All the trees and animals were instructed to keep a vigil.

During their vigil there was much talk among the trees and the animals as to who was the strongest and best. The oak tree would proclaim, "I am the strongest tree in the forest!" The bear would argue, "I am the strongest animal in the forest." With all of the arguing, some of the trees and the animals grew tired and sleepy.

One by one they began to fall asleep and the Great Spirit became angry with those who were supposed to keep vigil before the coming of man. He decided to punish those who fell asleep and to reward those who were true to their mission.

As a reward for keeping the vigil, the owl and panther were given extraordinary eyesight to see at night and the laurel and rhododendron bushes and pine and hemlock trees were allowed to keep their green leaves all the year through.

As for the bear and the oak tree, they were told that they would sleep for part of the year. So in the late fall, bears begin to seek out their dens where they will hibernate, and the trees vibrantly display their beautiful colors for the delight of man before sleeping through the winter.   

<%image(20070831-fallsmallbob.jpg|150|200|Fall Colors in the Boundary Waters)%>

  No matter why the leaves change colors it’s always a beautiful thing to see.  The process takes several weeks and with warm days and cool nights we’re almost guaranteed a spectacular showing.  The varying elevations along the Gunflint Trail and the North Shore make this a wonderful area to view the palette of fall.