All y’all, it’s fall!

Fall has definitely made its presence known here in the Arkansas Ouachitas!

Druid

Silhouetted against the midday sun, the broken trunk of a long-dead tree looms like a cowled figure of a druid standing in his oak (and hickory) grove.

Broken Tree trunk
MIDDAY & MYSTERIOUS – Trees cast shadows northward on the ridge.

Iced

An after market telephoto lens with really terrible optics can still create intriguing images with its distortion. In these images, rain falling through 29-degree air is coating branches and pine needles with ice.
Branches with icicle stubs. Having fun with terrible aftermarket lens. Jan. 11, 2015.

Really red

Scarlet tanager singing his three-part song from the top of an oak tree. Could’ve been an entry in last week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, but ran out of time to post. Love seeing this fellow in our green canopy.

Summer tanager.
REALLY RED — Summer Tanager’s plumage stands out against the new foliage and catkins of this oak tree.

The beauty of oaks

Wildflowers and wildlife aren’t the only beauties in these Ouachitan woods. While grown up oaks add to the lovely fall color here, these youngins show their spring colors nicely.

Five little oak leaves.
RADIANT — Young oak leaves edged in red.
Young oak leaves
Young oak leaves
Oak flowers
DUST IN THE WIND — Black Jack Oak flowers spread their pollen to the aggravation of allergy sufferers. There is a somewhat graceful beauty to the “stringers” as they wave in the wind. 

Fall into winter

What a difference a few weeks can make. The top photo was taken the week before Thanksgiving. The bottom photo was taken around lunchtime today — the snow and sleet courtesy winter storm Cleon.

Fall landscape.
The Arkansas Ouachitas glow in the pink morning light of Nov. 11, 2013.
12-06-WinterLandscape2WEB
Except for a few ragged flags left in the black jack oaks, the same Ouachita ridge is stripped bare, nearly a monotone, thanks to a Dec. 6, 2013, winter storm.

At first light

Nature has outdone herself this year in Arkansas. The fall colors seem to have lasted longer and been more saturated than any autumn in recent memory. The sun’s low angle made these colors even more warm.

Maples at first light
First light skims this Ouachita ridge revealing these rich autumn colors.

After the rain

Rain has returned to the Ouachitas, and even the trees look happier and plumper for the moisture that’s soaking into the soil. Arkansas is far from being out of danger, with rainfall for most of the state is running 12 to 16 inches below normal. However, the rain has given the state’s firefighters a much-needed break from wildfires and the rest of us a much-needed break from 100-degree temperatures.

STRING OF PEARLS — The white waterbirds in flight through the valley after the passage of a thunderstorm.  They were large and long-necked like herons, but am unsure whether herons flock in flight this way.
WATER! — Fog rises from the valley after a thunderstorm dropped about a quarter-inch of rain before sunset.

The rain was too late to stop this tree from shutting down and losing its crown. Compare the shot below to one from an earlier post on July 1.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE — This oak had begun its shutdown a couple of weeks ago and had completely shed its leaves by July 9. If the rain continues steadily, the tree may re-leaf. Some of the hickories have been shedding their nuts and persimmons have dropped unripe fruit to conserve as much water and energy as possible.

Secret lives of vascular plants

The sun has returned to the Ouachitas, along with highs in the 80s.  A perfect day to get into the garden for spring cleaning the dried stalks left from last year, as well as transplanting lavender, a volunteer sunflower and adding more soil and mulch to existing beds.

Among the discoveries today was a split open poke sallet stem, dried and bleached through last fall and winter, with its spongy interior mostly gone, but its ribs were left.

A short walk later was  a beautifully gnarled, mossed and lichen-ed underside of a tree, which, last year, had been a useful perch for an eager chipmunk.

On the deck, a grapevine waited on the deck for some ground to call its own.  The setting sun made the veining in its leaves stand out.

Poke sallet ribs
What's left of the spongy interior of a poke sallet "trunk."
More poke sall;et
Another view of the same trunk near the tapered end.
Niagara grape
Niagara grape, its veins backlit, awaits transplantation.
Underside of a tre
The foundation of this long-ago uprooted tree has grown its own peaks and valleys landscape.
Another view of the underside of a tree.
Another view of the rich life that has sprung from the death of a tree.