Leaves and Acorns

Posted: October 23rd, 2010 under photography, Plantlife.
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Fall color here starts early (sometimes very early)  but slowly, moving leaf by leaf, species by species, until the final flare of rich red from the last oaks in late November (with the occasional rusty blackhaw viburnum holding on to its red leaves into December.)

Smooth sumac, green and burgundy

We have three sumacs on the place: smooth, flameleaf, and aromatic.  Aromatic sumac (people who don’t like the aroma call it “skunkbush”)  changes in patchwork, not in stripes:

The bush as a whole looks as if someone had spattered it with paint–bright yellow and bright red.

One of our bur oaks was heavily covered with acorns this year,  and is now dropping both ripe and unripe ones.    Not only do bur oaks have great big leaves, but they have great big acorns, too.

The acorn facing up shows its unripeness with the green color.  But even unripe bur oak acorns are prized by acorn-eaters.    Here’s why:

When fully ripe, some bur oak acorns can be eaten out of hand without being soaked or boiled to remove the bitterness and astringency of the tannin.  (Trees differ.)    This one, being not fully ripe, wasn’t tasty–but getting there.  A big bur oak tree produced a lot of acorns (though not every year) and each acorn has substantial nutrition in it.    We found bur oaks and scavenged acorns, so now we’ve got bur oaks of different ages coming up here and there.  Those in the yard got some help with water the first year or so; those out on the land had to fend for themselves.    But eventually–more food for wildlife.

The backyard water garden is a good place to see interesting leaves in the fall–they stack up (and block!) the little mini-waterfall.   Virginia creepers are up in the pecan and ash trees, and drop multi-colored fringed leaflets; pecan, ash, roughleaf dogwood, hackberry, soapberry…each a different color and shape.


  • Comment by Martin LaBar — October 23, 2010 @ 5:36 pm


    Thanks for the botany lesson!

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 23, 2010 @ 9:52 pm


    Bur oaks are one of my favorite trees. They’re native to prairies–they don’t have the spectacular fall color of the red oaks (dull gold fading to brown, occasionally a brighter branch) but they withstand drought and are habitat and food for many critters. So far they seem to be more resistant to oak diseases than the live oaks and red oaks.

  • Comment by Tom Skupham — February 17, 2011 @ 2:25 pm


    What’s the winter weather been like in Texas?
    in the United Kingdon( great Britain) we had a verry cold end to 2010 but so far 2011 has not been too bad,I would describe it as about average

  • Comment by Dave — March 7, 2011 @ 11:00 am


    It is great to see others that have the same ideas as my wife and myself. A couple of years ago we purchased a small 68 acre farm and woodlot area in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. We are enjoying our little piece of the natural world that is here and are slowly helping nature to take hold again.

  • Comment by Abigail Miller — March 30, 2011 @ 5:47 pm


    Tom, I was just looking back at this entry and saw your comment. As I also live in Texas, around 200 miles north of Elizabeth, I’ll make bold to answer. We had some fairly normal cold spells in the early winter. Then February blew in with an “Arctic Express” more bitter than in thirty years or so. Here in the Dallas area there were five days that were below freezing ALL the time, with a couple of lows about ten Fahrenheit. Many pipes froze. It all melted and was fifty for a couple of days, and then happened again, not quite as cold or as long.

    Then after that the temperature zoomed up into the seventies and eighties for much of the rest of the month, so the spring season has been a week or two ahead of normal in timing. But DRY. Very dry. February had no rain except the snow and sleet, and March has had almost nothing. We may be looking at a dreadful hot try summer.

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