Maple Leaves


Birders have had a great month at Crossroads at Big Creek because the late spring has meant a late “leaf out.”  So migrating songbirds have not been obscured by foliage. But by this weekend, which in Canada is called Victoria Day Weekend or May Long Weekend, the maple leaves should be opening, and the tender maple leaves may be almost as red as the leaf on Canada’s flag.

The leaves of many trees seem to be reddish at budbreak. A leaf must have both sunlight and warmth for the chlorophyll to kick in.

In the wonderful magazine, Northern Woodlands, Michael Snyder wrote: ” If those newly emerged leaves are greeted by a cold snap or prolonged cloud cover, they cannot make chlorophyll and will remain reddish for an extended period.

“This red color in spring leaves is due to the same pigments responsible for the brilliant reds of autumn, the anthocyanins. Scientists studying the physiology of fall foliage have suggested that the anthocyanins responsible for red color in leaves – in fall or spring – may help them withstand cold and screen them from damaging ultraviolet rays, air pollution, and various other assaults”

Mary Holland suggests another theoryIn her book Naturally Curious, : “While there is not a complete understanding of this phenomenon, studies have shown that young  leaves have less damage from herbivores (plant eaters). It is possible that the pigment anthocyanin, which produces the red color, makes red leaves less discernible to some insect herbivores, or makes insect herbivores more discernible to predators.”

We predict our maples will be reddish  on Victoria Day, which in Canada is  (in the milder provinces, at least)  considered the unofficial start of summer.  Most Canadians take advantage of their three day weekend start working on their lawns and gardens—a pursuit which is taken very seriously by our neighbors to the north.

It is fitting that on Victoria Day,   Crossroads will re-screen the film that inspired the Safe Lawn in Door County movement.” A Chemical Reaction” is a 70 minute feature documentary movie” that tells the story of a powerful and effective community initiative which began in a small town in Canada  with one lone voice in 1984.  Dr. June Irwin, a dermatologist, noticed a connection between her patients’ health conditions and their exposure to chemical pesticides and herbicides.  With relentless persistence she brought her concerns to town meetings to warn her fellow citizens that the chemicals they were putting on their lawns posed severe health risks and had unknown side effects on the environment.”

Described and the “most effective tool ever created for advocates of pesticide reduction,” the Emmy nominated documentary film was produced by Paul Tukey, who recently spoke at Crossroads and the Door County Sustainability Fair. We will show the film Monday May 20 at  3:00 and 7:00 for those who missed earlier showings and for those who, after meeting Paul Tukey, want to see it again.

On Wednesday, May 22, at 7:0 The Door County Environmental Council presents the lecture: “Antibiotics Increasing in our Groundwater Supply.”  Andrew Werthmann,  Wisconsin organizer for the PEW Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Agriculture a part of the PEW Charitable Trusts  from Eau Claire will be speaking on the research of antibiotic use on livestock farms.  The overuse of antibiotics for healthy farm animals  is causing  detrimental residue in our water supply. Andrew will be giving factual statistics on over-use of antibiotics in all agriculture with animal waste spreading and runoff and the resultant impact these abuses are having on our groundwater now and far into the future.


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