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Autumn Leaves -- A Guide to the Fall Colors of the Northwoods

NorthWord Press (Creative Publishing International),1990

Years ago, a friend who lived on the seashore was shocked to learn that the admired scent of salt air was due in part to the odor of decomposing marine organisms. But knowing this should not detract from anyone's fun at the beach, where, after all, the sun still shines as brightly, and the waves still break into foam. Nor should it detract from our enjoyment of the woods to know that brilliant fall colors foretell the imminent wholesale death of once-green leaves preparing to go to earth and decay. It might even heighten our enjoyment of autumn, by lending a sense of urgency to the task of getting out into the country before the colors fade and the trees drop their foliage. (from the Preface)

Cool Fires of Autumn, an explanation of why leaves turn color
The Nature of Color
Seeing The Show
Fall Color Hotlines
Challenges For the Serious Leaf-Peeper
Trees of Light, tree species contributing to the spectacle
Somber Evergreens
Scientific Names

Sugar maple and black maple, red maple, silver maple, American beech,black willow, paper birch,yellow birch, black cherry, quaking aspen, balsam poplar and eastern cottonwood, black walnut and butternut, white oak and bur oak, northern red oak and black oak, white ash, black ash and green ash, shagbark, pignut, mockernut, and shellbark hickories,basswood, American elm, tamarack, sassafras, mountain-ash, red-osier dogwood, hawthorn, hackberry, black tupelo, staghorn sumac, speckled alder, eastern white pine, jack pine, red pine, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, white spruce, red spruce, black spruce, eastern red-cedar, and northern white-cedar.

"Both Yellow Birch and its close relation, the Sweet Birch, produce oil of wintergreen in their sap, leaves, bark, twigs, and roots. There was a time when young birches by the thousand were cut down, chopped up, and hauled to backwoods distilleries, where steam distillation extracted from them about a quart of oil per hundred saplings. Known chemically as methylsalicylate, a glucoside requiring enzymatic action for release of its ester, this aromatic oil has long been used for treating the pain of arthritis and rheumatism, and as a flavoring agent for candy and chewing gum. Today it is synthesized in laboratories."

"Most forest-grown Black Walnut trees are found singly or in small groves. They cannot tolerate shade, and tend to dominate such neighbors as White Ash, Basswood, Beech, Sugar Maple, Oaks and Hickories. Black Walnut has long been known to emit a toxic substance called juglone from its roots. This compound is antagonistic to the growth of nearby plants, and may assist Black Walnut by helping to keep in check competing vegetation. Similar "allelopathic" effects have been discovered among numerous other plants." (p.76)

"About 100 million years ago a pine markedly similar to today's Red Pine left fossil remains behind in southern Minnesota. Since then, Red Pine has responded to the comings and goings of great glacial ice sheets by retreating and reinvading as changing conditions permitted. It survived the most recent glaciation in an Appalachian refuge, then migrated west and north into its present range.... Because present-day populations are the offspring of a small band of ice-age survivors, there is little genetic variation in this inbred pine -- the trees are, genetically, all much the same." (p.139)

"Tamarack wood is very strong, heavy and hard, and resists rot in contact with the ground. As early as the seventeenth century, chronicler John Josselyn complained that while foundations made of Tamarack
'will never may almost drive a nail into a bar of Iron as into that.' Josselyn also recommended treating wounds with Tamarack resin, and had good luck using a mixture of crushed Tamarack needles and hog fat. Today Tamarack logs yield a gum, arabinogalactan, used in making baking soda, and the wood is used for lumber, poles, plywood, and paper pulp." (p.109)

"The squirrels who cache [Red Oak acorns] underground do not bite off, or 'notch', the pointed acorn tips to prevent germination while in overwinter storage, as they do with White Oak, because they know that Red Oak acorns do not germinate until spring." (p.87)

Autumn Leaves - A Guide to the Fall Colors of the Northwoods is 6 X 9 inches and has 181 pages. It is fully color illustrated with 126 color photos and numerous black/white sketches.

Autumn Leaves is currently out of print and available only on the used-book market.