Fall colors are brightening the landscape, time to take that pretty driveThe trees lining the St. Louis River in Cloquet have added bursts of gold, orange and red to their summertime greens, enjoying a last fling before winter descends. Pine trees retain their dark green, providing a solid contrast that makes the bright colors even more remarkable. A few deciduous trees already stand naked, stripped of their leaves from the wind and rains of recent storms.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The trees lining the St. Louis River in Cloquet have added bursts of gold, orange and red to their summertime greens, enjoying a last fling before winter descends. Pine trees retain their dark green, providing a solid contrast that makes the bright colors even more remarkable. A few deciduous trees already stand naked, stripped of their leaves from the wind and rains of recent storms.
There’s no doubt that the change of seasons is upon us. How much of a change … well, that depends on where you are. According to reports on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website:
• In Jay Cooke State Park the leaves are starting to turn (they were rated 10 to 25 percent on Monday), and the views from the Swinging Bridge and Oldenburg Point are filling with color. Visit this park outside Carlton/Thomson and you’ll see lots of yellows – flowers including goldenrod and sunflowers, plus ash and oak trees along with the rusty reds of bracken fern and sumac.
• In Grand Portage State Park, 36 miles north of Grand Marais, the leaves are already 50 to 75 percent turned.
The maples inland from Lake Superior have really changed a lot in the past week and about half of them are very close to their peak color, the park report stated earlier this week. Aspen and birch are starting to change now as well. Wildflowers currently in bloom include black-eyed Susans, ox-eye daisies and asters.
• At Banning State Park, maples are starting to think about fall by showing off their red and yellow leaves. You will also start seeing the understory turning color, trying to outdo the maples. Fall colors are best seen along the Kettle River. Interior trails remain very wet and soggy.
According to the DNR website, at the beginning of this week, between 10 and 50 percent of the leaves have changed color along the North Shore. Peak color in the northern part of the state usually begins soon, however, so don’t delay.
Weather is the most important factor in determining the brilliance of those fall colors. Colors are best when high quality foliage – a product of a warm, moist summer like the one we had this year – is exposed to sunny, cool fall days. Cool we’ve had, sunny not so much.
Of course, there would be
no autumn magic without
Yellow shows up in the leaves each fall as the smaller amount of daylight triggers the trees to break up the green substance in the leaves: chlorophyll. With the warm season winding down, trees are shutting down production of foods so the chlorophyll is no longer needed. In the absence of the green pigments, leaves turn yellow. (Xanthophyll, the yellow pigment, was present in the leaves all summer, but masked by the dominant chlorophyll.)
When the green goes, the yellow shows up.
The red pigment, anthocynin, needs to be produced by the leaves at this time. Made from excess sugars in leaves, it is seen in fewer trees. Red maple, dogwood, sumac, pin cherry and hazel stand out at this time.
Another very common plant with red leaves is not a tree, but a vine called Virginia creeper. Also known as woodbine, this clinging climber now can be seen all over the Northland. These vines were here all summer but, being green like all the others, they did not attract attention. Bright colors changed all that. The Virginia creeper’s leaves are about six inches long and hold five partially toothed leaflets. (With five leaflets, Weber says, it is not likely to be confused with the three of poison ivy; that is also red now.) Noticeable among the leaves are purple berries, also of the season.
As with other plants of a scarlet glow, the best colors are in sunlit sites, writes nature writer Larry Weber. A red maple may be crimson in the sun, but yellow in the shade of the woods. The same goes for Virginia creeper.
While one only has to walk along the riverbank in Cloquet to enjoy the range of colors, those planning to take a drive or go hike a state or national park to enjoy the autumn display should keep in mind these safety tips from Superior National Forest:
• In addition to visitors enjoying the fall color over the coming weeks, hunters will be out and about on the back roads, so please remember as you are driving to watch out for other traffic.
• Take special care on narrow, hilly, and curving forest routes and remember to use headlights.
• Be prepared for a wide range in temperature during
• Frosty mornings could
create slippery patches on roads.
• Don’t forget to take along
a good map and emergency
For more on fall color at your favorite state park, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/
Annual Fall Color Train Excursion
Enjoy the fall colors and learn about the St. Louis River on a scenic train ride Sunday, October 3 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. This fundraiser for the St. Louis River Alliance aboard the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad will feature fine beverages and fabulous hors d’oeuvres along with interpretive talks about stewardship activities taking place along the river.
The St. Louis River Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to protect, restore and enhance the St. Louis River. Activities include water monitoring, rebuilding habitat for plants and animals, recreational and educational programs for area children and public outreach.
The suggested donation is $25 per person. Boarding takes place at 4 p.m. at the train station across Grand Avenue from the Lake Superior Zoo (6930 Fremont St.). To register, call 733-9520 or e-mail email@example.com.