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Jerry Davis: Signs of fall are everywhere

October 5, 2018

Twining bittersweet has an attractive fruit that bursts open revealing a red-orange center. The vine are often used in dried floral decorations, too.

Forest changes are the magnet when seeking symptoms of autumn.

Don’t stop there.

Temperate deciduous forests and mixed hardwood and confer forests are often the only landscape markers used by autumn admirers.

This is their first choice looking for color spectacles to fill their memories and flash cards.

But there are many other ecosystems that can be prized by admirers, too, by hiking, biking, and stepping out of motorized transportation.

Sometimes these other systems are treeless, but no matter because even in forests we admire understory colors, various fungi, and, plants without leaves or fruits.

Water is a powerful attraction during summer, so why not autumn? On sunny days, from the best angle, a calm lake or pond becomes a blue gem. Emergent aquatic plants and shrubs can be attractive in the same way as terrestrial plants when admiring fall colors.

With ample rainfall the past two seasons, aquatic plants are as robust as their counterparts on drier land.

Color arrays are usually different in these habitats, but burnt bronzes, beiges, auburns, plums, and chars come together in leaves and stems.

Cattails add structure to marshlands often absent of trees. The seedy tails burst white releasing cotton-like bunches usually floating up rather than drifting down as forest leaves do.

The water’s surface often bursts a new growth of algae and some floating plants, including tiny duckweeds. The colors here are limey, not a hard green common to land plants, so it fits into fall rather than reminding us of what is sometimes those mundane greens of spring and summer.

Each ecosystem, including coniferous forests and rocky cliffs with white birch spikes, help accentuate the early-falling, yellow birch leaves.

River banks can be dotted with wintergreen shrubbery. Sandbars have willow leaves turning silvery before dropping into the Wisconsin River.

Rocky cliffs are moss and lichen-covered. While small, their shades of green, gray, tan and black add to the structure and texture of the sandstone.

Many of these systems have less diversity than broadleaf forests, and more chances of finding entire areas taken over by color changes instead of the patchwork of a temperate broadleaf forest.

Two of the most spectacular creamy, beige, and buttery yellow displays come from deciduous conifers, the tamarack, and broad-leafed ginkgo. Look for these trees lining ponds farther north, while ginkgos line some streets in the south.

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