Field Notes by J. Cantrell
Mark this moment friends. The cooler seasons in the Ozarks is the ideal time for tree study for the budding naturalist in us all. Some people fret as the days grow shorter, but as the sunshine gives way to early retirement, the spotlight of autumn goes to our native trees. They are the true top models and they simply shine on nature’s runway.
As autumn carries on we see a transition of wardrobe for each tree species into splendor fall attire. The bright burning hue of the sumacs is usually the first to ignite the show. This season dogwood burgundy, mulberry lemon, blackjack red, and the brilliant yellows of coffee tree and beloved hickories are always the trend. The forest will appear to be a changing color wheel for a three week period; tree species seem to take turns on which plant is the top model for the day making every autumn walk or Sunday drive unique.
A hike in the countryside is always in style among friends. A good walk is prescribed by physicians, woodsmen and camera buffs alike; benefiting one’s cardio, our social media photos and strengthening friendships.
Naturalist John Muir is not known for his fashion sense, but he did recognize the need for a walk in the woods.
“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind “…“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – John Muir
No two falls are alike, whether in depth of color or our available days to get out and enjoy a trail. My suggestions for enjoying the fall fashion show include Roaring River State Park, Hobbs State Park and Huckleberry Ridge Conservation Area for hiking and nature viewing. For those who prefer to drive, 39 Highway between Aurora and Shell Knob or Highway 112 between Roaring River and Seligman are excellent trips to soak up the scenery. Even once the leaves are shed, the forest models hold a beauty of their own. For the naturalist, the tree study continues, as the wonder of the trees is more than skin deep. I hope to see you on the trail. - Jeff
Jeff is a local Neosho biologist and tree enthusiast. Questions on native tree id, field guide recommendation and places to hike can be directed to Jeff at email@example.com or the local master naturalist website www.chertglades.org
Photos by Ann Butts