A few weeks ago I thought our fall color was going to be disappointing. It has turned out better than I expected, but perhaps not quite as good as in some years.
These pictures are from one morning about two weeks ago when I walked the dogs down Fouche Gap Road into Texas Valley. A morning walk down that side of the mountain puts us into shade for a lot of the way down so the color we do have is muted.
This part of the road had some nice color.
Most of the color is from our maples. The maples tend to be smaller trees scattered in the forest, except beside the road, where they can stick their heads out into the sunlight. Here is one of the brighter red maples.
The maples had not finished turning color by this weekend. Even maples right beside each other varied from nearly summertime green through yellow, orange, red and brown.
Most of the large oaks and poplars are brown or maybe slightly yellowish brown. The hickories have been mainly yellow, but their color is not bright and saturated. Here is what I think was a hickory with oaks above it. I don’t remember for sure, but this might have been a tree that I don’t recognize. Hickories have paired leaves on opposite side of the stalk, while the trees I haven’t identified have leaves that alternate. (Oddly, one Web site I went to said that hickory leaves are alternate, but I am 99 percent sure that I have specifically noticed that they are paired on the stem on the trees in our yard that I have identified as pignut hickories; they certainly produce nuts that look like hickory nuts. Could I be mistaken?) The leaves of our unknown-to-me trees are significantly larger than our pignut hickories (I am pretty sure they are pignut; I don’t remember the characteristics I used for that ID, but it took me long enough to come up with it, and I was pretty sure at the time.) Anyway, the leaves in this shot are paired, so they must be hickories according to my identification. The point I was trying to make is that they are yellow, but not bright yellow.
Part of our problem is that in our mixed pine and hardwood forest, a large fraction of the taller hardwoods are oaks. The other large trees are poplars (much less common, not much color) and hickories (also less common, some color but not great). From a distance the mountain looks pretty brown. Most of the color seems to be in the understory, where the maples tend to share space with the deep red dogwoods. If you look carefully here and there, our very common muscadine vines provide yellow in some trees that would otherwise be pretty dull.
Even the lowly poison ivy contributes color close to the ground.
I haven’t been able to get pictures from the most beautiful places along Fouche Gap Road in late afternoons on the other side of the mountain. That’s when the sunlight streams through the understory and the leaves are illuminated from behind. They seem to glow, and it’s hard to keep my eyes on the road. Maybe that’s an image that’s best built up mentally from fleeting glimpses dominated by the brightest and most colorful leaves.