Early signs of autumn

Today we awoke to a much cooler day, and my walk was longer than it has been in the heat. The salmonberry leaves are thickening, and becoming almost leathery, their edges turning brown and downwards. A few of their leaves are totally brown; their berries are long ago eaten.

I hear the songs of strange birds in the woodland, migrants passing through. I seldom see them but, from their songs, I think they must be some species of warblers heading away from the cold. I wish them a safe journey and hope to hear them again as they pass by in the spring.

The bushes most affected by the turning of the year are the cascaras (Rhamnus purshiana) whose bark has long been known as a laxative.  At one time John Davidson thought these might completely disappear from the Vancouver area because of over-harvesting (early Vancouverites must have been a costive lot), but they flourish in my neighbourhood.

Cascaras are the hurry-up kids of the bush world. In winter, when it’s hard to spot any buds on branches the cascara will have shiny green buds looking ready to pop open into leaf any day. It’s a very cheering sight the first week in January. And indeed the buds do open earlier than almost any other bush and they cheer us along with early spring leaves. Their berries appear earlier than any other berries, providing welcome early season food for birds. The payment for all of this comes in August as their leaves are first to turn yellow and fall. Ah, well. They’re entitled to their full share of dormancy.

But the heat of last week has brought down other leaves too – alders mostly and they have been so dry they crunched underfoot. Another sign of autumn to come.

This morning, walking through the woodland I found a big leaf maple had dropped a leaf with fine yellow veining, very attractive along with its red stem.

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