Exploring the autumn woods

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Usually peaking in brilliant color during mid to late October in Southeast Missouri, our autumn woods are beautiful in any direction. The woodlands in this region of the U.S. are part of a larger forest known as the Central Hardwood Forest.

A North American hardwood forest will consist mainly of tall deciduous trees such as oaks, hickories and sweet gum that form the forest canopy. Many other kinds of smaller trees such as sassafras, dogwood, red bud and paw paw can survive in the shaded understory.

During autumn the leaves of deciduous trees turn from green to yellow, orange, red or brown. For a short time in autumn, over maybe a couple weeks time the forest becomes ablaze in beautiful warm colors. A knowledgeable observer may be able to identify many kinds of trees by the color the leaves turn to.

In the photo, I show a hard maple tree in the foreground in its wonderful yellow as the leaves die. Soon freezing temperatures, wind and rain will prompt the leaves to fall to the ground. The hard maple is one of our most showy autumn trees and it is often a den for owls, squirrels and raccoons, but it is not a tree prized for lumber.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by Aaron at The Painted Wren Gallery.

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