Black walnut, white birch, white elm, white pine and wild ginseng are all showing yellow. Woodbine vines and roadside sumacs have turned on the red. Even a few white oak acorns are blushing from sunny days.
The white pines are interesting evergreens, losing a set of needles, which yellow before falling, leaving the younger, greener needles. Those older, yellow needles make the pines look sickly, but in a few weeks the needles (a pine’s leaves) will be on the ground, along with the seed cones. These resin-laden woody structures make excellent fire-starting tinder.
Crops are showing autumn, too. Some soybean fields are yellowing. Leaf abscission is about to commence.
Oaks in the white oak group are dropping acorns, starting with bur oaks. Deer have found them as a food source, and antler-rubbing posts, so now is the time to protect young trees from these bark-stripping deer. Steel posts, fencing and heavy plastic wraps will help save specimen trees.
Several steel posts driven 6-7 inches into the soil will do the trick protecting the young tree. Move back a foot or more from the trunk to lessen damage to the tree roots when the post is driven into the soil.
With the droughty August in locations, soaking the soil around trees before frost is advised, too.
Shagbark hickory nuts are falling, and here and there the four-piece shells lay where squirrels have taken the nut out and moved to a safer location to gnaw into the seed capsule to get the meat. Most who pick hickory nuts dry them for several week or on into the winter, before cracking and picking the meats out.
If ever there was a year to gather nuts, 2017 seems to be that year.
Another big opportunity, beginning this weekend, is the opening of many small game seasons, turkey season, and archery/crossbow season. (When will the DNR and politicians get together and combine these two archery season names? Or will the trend be toward changing the gun deer season to a rifle season and shotgun season, which just happen to coincide?)
The DNR’s annual fall forecast was delayed a bit but should be on the web site “shelves” this week when hunters plan their outings.
However, as one grouse guide, hunter and biologist continues to say, “One never really knows the status of the population until the guns begin going off.” Hedging is justified this fall with the improvements in spring drumming male counts followed by not-so-good weather during the summer rearing season.
The lake sturgeon registration station in Sauk City registered two fish, one 54 pounds, the other 41 pounds, during the first week of the month-long season. Both fish topped the minimum legal length of 60 inches by a single inch.
Some interesting reds have begun to show already. Winterberry fruits are bright on the small lowland shrubs, both landscaping and wild plants. Remember, only half of the shrubs produce fruits because one plant has only pollen flowers, but never fruits, and the other has only fruit flowers. So it takes two shrubs to form fruits on one shrub.
Another red, which many a ginseng digger has walked up to, is the fruit cluster of jack-in-the-pulpit. “Fool’s gold” these diggers call it because it resembles a cluster of ginseng fruits, but only for a moment to an experienced digger. Leave these stinging fruits for turkeys.
Great blue lobelia is in full bloom in lowland areas, as a perennial herb 2-3 feet tall. Those familiar with cardinal flower, another lobelia, might put on a smile from a common name applied to this great blue. Because the two plants are closely related, the great blue is sometimes called a blue cardinal-flower. Cardinal, of course, is red. Both are so spectacular they are planted sparingly in the right garden locations.
Autumn colors continue to warm us as temperatures do the opposite, so take advantage of this best-of-all gathering seasons, regardless of whether it is done with a camera, binoculars, gun, bow, shovel or simply good eyes.