Friday, October 21, 2016

Compare and Contrast: Maple Tree Foliage

October 19, 2016
Longtime readers of this blog may remember that back in 2009, my Monday strand was called "My Little Maple." Each week I photographed the sugar maple tree outside my office window and made some observations.

At the end of the year, I used all the images to create this video, showing how the tree changed over the course of the year.

Every autumn, I find myself looking back at the photos to compare the foliage. I'm curious. How do the tree’s colors vary? Is the foliage at its height earlier or later?

As the sun rose on Wednesday morning, I was gobsmacked by the beauty of my little maple tree. I knew it was time to search for the old photos.

So here are images I took in 2009.
October 19, 2009
October 26, 2009
In 2010, I decided to take another set of photos. It was a dry year and, to me, the colors seemed more orange-y than usual. I wanted to do a comparison.
October 18, 2010
October 26, 2010
Turns out, I was right. I also discovered that the tree was at it's height earlier than in 2009.

The summer of 2016 brought a severe drought to most of Massachusetts, and once again, I was wondering if that would affect the foliage.
Boy, did it! Just look at the 2016 photo. The leaves are a fiery orange, and the tree is at its height more than a week earlier. Wow!


  1. This is a fascinating comparison, Melissa. Quite interesting (and unnerving) to view gorgeous colors as a symptom of drought stress. But now that I think about it, our neighbor's bougainvillea flowers beautifully when it's most stressed. A similar biological adaptation to the same stress.

    1. I love seeing the amazing colors out my window, but I hate what this drought means for the future of our planet.

  2. What a cool study--sounds like the seeds of a book idea, Melissa!

    Any idea why the drought is resulting in such spectacular foliage?

  3. Alas, I don't think I have the photography skills for a publishable book documenting how the tree is changing. No, I don't know why the drought is causing such vibrant colors. Autumnal foliage has been widely studied, but scientists still don't really understand the process or why it varies.