Tuesday, November 8, 2011

seeing the forest for the trees

As an alum of the School of Professional Horticulture I was invited up to the New York Botanical Garden on Saturday to enjoy a forest symposium by leading scientists and policy makers. From a global scale to a local scale four speakers addressed the challenges we face as stewards of the land going forward in this time of climate change and then we all went out and enjoyed the 50-acre old growth forest that NYBG is known for. Reuniting with friends and mentors it was such a treat to give our bodies a day off while exercising our minds and getting re-inspired to continue plugging away at the good work we do. I have specific tree shots and info to share but for now here are some of the more general shots I took that gorgeous afternoon. (as always click to enlarge images)
probably a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
What most people don't realize is that the stunning colors we see in fall are actually there in the leaves most of the growing season, they are just hidden by the chlorophyll plants produce in order to photosynthesize.
As trees and shrubs begin to go dormant in the fall they produce less chlorophyll, the green pigment in their leaves, because they have to begin shutting down and storing up water and sugars so that they can leaf-out next spring. With less chlorophyll present we get a glimpse of the other pigments in the leaves that are created throughout the growing season. Xanthophylls and Carotenoids are responsible for the stunning yellows and oranges and actually exist in the leaves most of the warmer months. The red and purple pigments come from Anthocyanins which the leaves manufacture mid- to late-summer to deal with the bright summer sun, almost like a plant's secret SPF. In fall we get lucky that the trees and shrubs take a little time to shut down and prepare for winter dormancy giving us this great show.

New exceptionally designed pathways now weave throughout the Thain Family Forest allowing arborists and novices alike the chance to experience this wonderful woodland with all it's age and lessons on the interconnectedness of life. Such a treat to breath easy, dwarfed by the landscape, and take it all in.

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