The 2018 fall foliage season was a bust.Many friends on each coast - - and points in between - - said colors were muted or the leaves just turned brown and dropped.
|Even at the height of fall foliage season in October, this view in Washington County, New York was underwhelming.|
Oak trees, however, saved this disappointing fall foliage season.
Before this year, I thought that, if fall foliage was a television series, that the moment the oaks appeared it would be a great time to get food and drink in the kitchen. So many oak leaves are brown and leathery.
Without the brighter leaves of other species, there are less distractions from the great qualities of oaks.
Before going much further, one of the foremost qualities of oaks, according to my friend John Graham, a Forester for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Cortland, NY, is the number of different, sometimes almost wacky varieties. “There are,” John explained, “over 600 species of oak worldwide and over 90 in the United States.” In New York, red and white oaks are common. The South is home to the majestic live oak. The West coast is home to the: California black oak; coast live oak; valley oak; and canyon oak.
A few weeks ago, Dorothy and I were driving to meet our friends Jack and Nancy. Along the way, in the fading daylight, we saw red oak leaves spiraling to the ground. Oak leaves tend to be long and narrow. Their bottom edge is swept back like a fighter plane wing. In calm air, an oak leaf spirals down rather than waft or parachute down, as does a maple leaf.
|Painting by J. Rowen|
Even though so many oak trees go almost the entire winter with tough drab leaves, some oaks at this time of year have unexpectedly bright colors. The brightness intensifies when the tree is in direct morning sunlight, as was the case in this photo of an oak after a recent sunrise.
Once oak leaves - - or any other leaves - - hit the ground, the first concern for most people is managing them. Low-cut grassy yards are a tradition - - and a requirement for those who live in tick or snake country. Leaves must be removed or mulched, or they will smother the grass.
As the photograph below, from my friend Ken Relation, shows, dealing with leaves can be a long task. Of raking, my friend Steve Jaffe says “It doesn't matter where the leaves get placed. It seems we are at the intersection of the four winds. They just keep coming from all directions.”
|Photograph by Kenneth Relation|
|The round lobes on these oak leaves are a good clue that they came from a white oak.|
John explained that trees have smaller leaves at the top and larger at the bottom. “Leaves that are lower in the tree,” he said, “are larger to maximize the area to catch sunlight and sustain the tree.”
"Some people think the smaller size makes it easier for the leaf to avoid overheating,” he said, “Others think the smaller size allows sunlight to pass through to the lower leaves."
Some Westerners have less of a leaf problem than others. Jennifer said the coast live oak and canyon oak keep their leaves year-round.
|The canyon oak keeps its leaves year 'round.|