The Varied Colors of Fall

It isn't just the leaves

alan belford

A Warm September

Despite the unseasonably warm September -- my dog, Wren, and I went swimming every day -- fall is finally here, as evidenced by the colorful landscape and the ankle-deep leaves I raked in my driveway and yard yesterday. Lately, temps have stayed in the 70s, but fall has still shown up in earnest.

As cooler temperatures and frost killed off the chlorophyll in the leaves reds, oranges, yellows, golds, and purples have been exposed. It is an amazing time of year here in the Adirondacks, and one that is not to be missed.A variety of goldenrod species, including Canada goldenrod, have been blooming across the region.

Leaves and Wildflowers

Despite the fall color explosion, I might most enjoy the long lead-in to the colorful extravaganza that unfolds upon the landscape. After all, during late summer and early fall, colors begin to peek through the forests as leaves begin what is often an initially subtle transformation. The stubborn green in many trees adds another suite of colors to the mix, and it expands the pallet we can witness at one time.

More than that, over the past few weeks wildflowers have been blooming along our trails, roads, lakes, and forest edges, adding their faces to the shapes, shades, and hues of the leaves. These include a list of goldenrods - like rough-stemmed, bog, lance-leaved, and Canada. Wren and I have been enjoying them wherever we explore, and while many of the individual plants are turning from blooms to seed heads, they continue to add color and texture to the world around us.New York aster is a much paler purple than New England aster.

The asters are likewise in bloom. While flat-topped aster is largely past its flowering prime now, species like calico, New England, and New York aster look amazing and will for some time to come. Their purples and whites are like punctuation points of color along the polychromatic spectrum around us. And, as various ferns and wildflowers begin to die, they too offer pale yellows, reds, and browns to the ground-hugging herb layers in our forests and along our trails, accentuating the change which is taking place across the entire North Country.

A Kaleidoscope of Butterflies

The brilliance of the flowers is further given a lift by the myriad number of butterflies they have attracted this year. I have been happy to note that this year I've seen more monarchs than I've seen in years. That's good news for a species of concern and for their incredible migration to Mexico. But I've also been seeing a variety of other species - including black swallowtail, common (or clouded) sulfur, and - in huge numbers - painted ladies.There have been good numbers of monarchs around this summer and fall.

In fact, our numbers of painted ladies are unprecedented this year, apparently because good reproductive success last winter and our mild spring and fall have allowed for an additional generation of butterflies, seriously boosting their abundance. And while entomologists will debate the mechanisms of that influx, we all get to enjoy watching them feed on wildflowers on our warm, sunny, fall days. It is truly amazing.

With much cooler weather in our forecast, the remaining butterflies will likely be pushed south on their migration soon (painted ladies migrate to the southwest, to places like Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas), so there isn't time to waste if folks want to witness this incredible phenomenon, which has occurred across much of the nation this year, from the Rockies through the Midwest and on to the Northeast.A painted lady can add color to anything - even to gravel on a railroad bed.

But even as the butterflies depart, the cold nights that drive them south will also begin the final lead-up to peak colors in our leaves. While the last few weeks have brought incredible color to the Adirondacks, there is still a lot more to come.

Plan your fall outdoor adventure to the Adirondacks today! Check out our lodging and dining pages.

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