It will never catch on like the old “April Showers” line, but we can be relatively sure that Sunny Septembers make colorful Octobers, unless we are hit by a drastic killing frost. At all three of the Crossroads properties, we are seeing the start of vivid autumn colors on our deciduous trees while the conifers are sporting Packer Colors.
The scarlet leaves first appeared on the tree tops and forest edges. Ironically, the vivid colors foretell the impending death of the leaves.
A leaf begins to die when a specialized set of cells called the abscission layer forms across the base of its stem. This layer cuts off the flow of water and nutrients to the leaf. Chlorophyll is used up with exposure to light. Without water and nutrients, no new green bodies can be formed. Without the masking effect of the green chlorophyll, other leaf pigments are revealed. Sunny conditions favor the chemical changes which create the red pigments, while a string of overcast days in early fall will result in yellow leaves. This September, we had plenty of sunshine.
Trees on the edges… of a field, of a forest, of lakes and in yards…. receive more sunlight than forest trees. They also experience more stress. Trees on the edge are buffeted by far more wind than those in the forest interior. Trees near pavement suffer drought conditions. On the other hand, trees on the edges of wetlands or near bodies of water often get too much water and must get by in nutrient-poor soil. Stressed plants turn color first, and haven’t they been lovely this year?
And the evergreens? The outer needles needles are still green, but even though the trees are called evergreens, their needles don’t last forever. Foliage on cedars and needles of pines are able to collect the energy of the sun to manufacture food for three, maybe four years. But needles wear out, and when they no longer productive, they turn golden and then drop. But the carpet of needles forms a mulch which protects the roots during winter.
This is a grand time to visit our Ida Bay preserve. We’ve scheduled a nature hike at 5:00 on Thursday, October 8 so people who work will have a chance to unwind in the colorful areas. Participants are asked to gather at the gate on Zenith Street.
Saturday Night, the Door Peninsula will host another Viewing Night. During the Eclipse of the Harvest Moon” event, a one first time visitor to our Astronomy Campus asked , “Do you do this often?” If she meant gather to watch a full moon, the answer : “No. Not even once in a blue moon.” Quite the opposite, we gather on the Saturday evening closest to the new moon, when the sky is at its darkest because then, the stars, planets and deep sky objects are at their brightest. And in October, the early sunsets enable us to start exploring the night sky early in the evening. The gate at the top of the hill, 2200 Utah will open at 7:00. Members of DPAS will be on hand to in the Observatory and the StarGarden to help visitors navigate the night sky.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a preserve welcoming learners of all ages to programs in science, history and the environment. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan in Sturgeon Bay, is open 2:00-4:30 daily and during scheduled events. Trails at Crossroads, the Big Creek Cove property, and Ida Bay Preserve are open daily and free of charge.
Thursday, October 8
5:00 Fall Color Hike at Ida Bay
Join the naturalist to enjoy the autumn colors on the east end of the Ida Bay preserve. About an hour. Easy walking. Meet at the gate in the middle of Zenith Street.
Saturday, October 10
7:00 Viewing Night at the Astronomy Campus
Join members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society in exploring the night sky. Please use the Utah Street Entrance, 2200 Utah and drive down Skygazer Trail to reach the Leif Everson Observatory and StarGardn. Free and open to the public.
Sunday, October 11
4:30 Green and Gold Hike
Get some healthy exercise after the game. Join the naturalist in search of the green and gold in nature. Meet at the Collins Learning Center.
Tuesday, October 13
6:30 Meeting of the Friends of Crossroads.
Visitors and those interested in volunteering at Crossroads are invited to the monthly meeting of Friends of Crossroads. Each month, volunteer opportunities and future plans are discussed. Meet in the Collins Learning Center.