The Berkshires Blog

Foliage Report #6 – The Berkshire Leaf Chief

The weather in these parts this autumn has been extraordinarily well behaved, providing optimum conditions for viewing the annual spectacular. In the past week we were blessed with what might be called Indian Summer, a weather singularity of warm days following a cold period. In the valleys, single trees, even groves have turned the fiery yellows and crimsons. As the leaf season moves from north to south in the county, the sparks we see now may yet strike further conflagrations. At the same time, the neat beauty of pumpkins in formation, the still-green conifer forests and clear skies are awe-inspiring. Pick a sunny day and soak it up.

Because . . . nature’s annual drama in Berkshire County, the un-leafing of the deciduous trees, will come to a close. The maples, ash, birch will appear to be dead all winter; the telltale leaves that remain on the oaks and beech will rattle ominously in the northwest winds. Yet some April day we will walk in the forest to see bursting buds. Berkshire spring is brief and often uncertain, as late cold battles with early warmth, but the direction is clearly flagged by the golden-green filigree that will decorate the branches.

This cycle in the Northern Temperate Zone is exciting and unique. No coniferous forest, tropical forest, or subtropical forest displays anything approaching our leaf fall. As naturalist Rutherford Platt has said, “What happens in the deciduous forest is one of the most dramatic events of life on earth in terms of its sweep and swiftness, and its impact on vast populations of plants and animals.”

Furthermore the drama is heightened by the sure knowledge that our descendants will not be able to see as awesome a display, in this place, due to a warming climate. Our iconic trees, especially the sugar maples, require cold winters. Over time the species here will diminish.

Visiting the color, then, such as we have in Berkshire, is now a cherished privilege—and an opportunity to reset our internal clocks to the great cycle of the seasons. How do we know it is fall until we have seen it, been there, experienced it? Leaves are turning quickly, all the way south in the county, and dropping from the trees. Come soon. If not now, plan to come next year.

I have enjoyed speaking to you over these weeks of early autumn.

Your Leaf Chief

Report #1

Report #2

Report #3

Report #4

Report #5