Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tree Year 2011 Recap: Sumac Season

The Tree Year My blogging habit crashed and burned last year, but I continued to take sumac pictures for Tree Year 2011, at least until summer's dry weather killed the small trees I was photographing.

I waited until the end of April to see the buds relax and swell.

These leaves were unfolding on May 21.

By June, most of the trees were leafy, although some new shoots were still growing.

The inflorescences are not as pretty as the red winter fruiting bodies. This is full bloom on June 21.

I had never looked close at sumac inflorescences before.

And then, they all dried up and died--the small, reachable sumacs, that is. Around here, sumacs are adventitious woody shrubs that pop up in old fields and die back after a short time. I had hoped for a series of fall foliage colors, like we had in 2004. I was going to finish off the year with this:

When we read Indian Summer in school, the whole concept of "crimson forest" was a mythical thing in my mind, like dragons and fairy godmothers. Yes, sometimes a leaf might turn yellow or red, but mostly, they turned brown and blew away.

Along the line of smoky hills
The crimson forest stands,
And all the day the blue-jay calls
Throughout the autumn lands.

Now by the brook the maple leans
With all his glory spread,
And all the sumachs on the hills
Have turned their green to red.

Sometimes, I knew, trees could blow away. The Kansas part of "The Wizard of Oz" was all too real--I was in high school before I could bear to watch it on TV. But "sumachs on the hills...turned their green to red" was some sort of literary conceit. Boy did I get a surprise when I moved "back East." I believe sumac sometimes glows in the dark come autumn.

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