Autumn solace

Autumn colors are sparse at a time of year when they are usually abundant. I’ve heard it’s because of the past few weeks of dry weather. But anyway I’ll take what the forest gives. A cloak of green is always dashing.

10082017 sumac
This red beauty has the look of poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), but I can’t be sure.
10082017 sweet gum
A five-pointed beauty, the sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a plant about which I will sing songs long into my old age. the leaves of deep purple in fall always summon the reverberations of timeless beauty that fills my lungs with the joyous light of a thousand supernovae.

I do not curse the many-pointed gumballs that litter the lawn (I am not in possession of a lawn), but revel in it’s fecundity. I don’t know what the books say, but I’ve seen gumballs in which every seed contained therein (dozens) had sprouted forth a baby sweetgum.

How do you tell the difference between a sweetgum and a maple? You don’t. They tell you. Sorry. Sweet gum leaves have a more durable, waxy sheeny appearance. Maple leaves are still tough, but they seem softer, more delicate. Sweetgum trees are more upright (why must we build skyscrapers when nature grows them right out of the ground?), maples seem to have a broader, many-branched growth habit. I don’t speak from incredible experience – for every 30 sweetgums I encounter, I’m lucky if I see one maple.

10082017 beauty berry maybe
What is this? I suspect American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), but I can’t be sure. Extremely sparsely fruited if it is. And the leaves have a different texture. But the berries are edible, and slightly astringent as beautyberry is wont to be. If anyone has any insight, please feel free to share.

Edit: it has been suggested that the plant above is definitely not any species of beautyberry, and is perhaps of the Lonicera persuasion. It is indeed beside numerous other naturalized specimens of Lonicera fragrantisima, Chinese honeysuckle, so I’ll take that. Thanks Eliza Waters!

2 thoughts on “Autumn solace”

  1. Poison ivy here is in full color, too – lovely and toxic! We don’t get a lot of sweet gums in New England, but I love their leaves and fall color. Your last plant is hard to ID but am sure it isn’t beautyberry, which has pointed, serrated leaves. Lonicera shrub, perhaps?


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