As we march into autumn, this year the whole experience of the outdoors, the drives and the tours have taken a very different hue.
Autumn is a time that a lot of us look forward to- the harsh summer is behind and temperatures are very ambient. Leaves are starting to gather and line the edge of streets and gutters; yet the trees still have a head full of foliage that is starting to ‘turn’. Growing up in the northern hemisphere, my imagery of autumn is a landscape of brilliantly coloured leaves- red, gold, orange and all shades in between- more intense than flowers could ever be. The deciduous trees with colour-changing foliage, fall to reveal the bare tracery of the branches.
The Why and How
Here in Australia, there are very few deciduous native trees; however thanks to the legacy left behind by the early European settlers, we have a rich tapestry of Elms, Beech, Oaks, Maples, Redwood to name a few, that put up a magnificent display of colour.
With short days and reduced daylight, leaves start to slow down the photosynthesis and break down the pigments to access nutrients like nitrogen. The green chlorophyll is one of the first pigments to get affected. The rest depends on the species and the intensity of the winter.
And there’s an activity that is as eagerly awaited as the ushering of spring- it’s called Leaf Peeping and those who indulge in it are called Leaf Peepers!
It is an activity that makes people travel far and wide – chasing, viewing and capturing in pictures, the bold and vibrant colours of the foliage as they change colour.
There are excursions that arrange these trips and they are called Foliage Tours.
In America, notable for this activity is the northern New England and the Midwest; Banf National Park in Canada, Black Forest in Germany, Lake District England,
and Japan- well in Japan it is as important as the famed Cherry Blossom Festival and it is called momijigari.
The Maple leaf symbolises autumn in Japan and there are metaphors, poetry, cuisine and much more built around the Maple tree leaves.
A lot of spiritual observances are centred around them in Japan.
Envied by us all,
turning to such lovliness-
red leaves that fall.
In Australia, we can indulge in leaf peeping in:
- Victoria’s High Country. The legacy of the European settlers is strong and there are Chestnut trees among others that turn into a blaze of autumn colours.
- Blackwood River Valley in WA. The Golden Valley Tree Park has stands of Oaks, Redwood, Giant Sequoia and Elms
- Bowral in the Southern Highlands NSW. Many a private garden has impressive collections of trees such as Red Oaks, Golden Elms, Plane Tree, Copper Beech and Tulip Trees
- Dandenong Ranges in Victoria. The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens has the stunning Golden Ginkgos by the lake.
- Mt Field National Park in Tasmania. In fact, the only native Australian that is deciduous in winter is the Northofagus gunnii found only in Tasmania. The annual ‘turning of the Fagus’ is a keenly anticipated event.
- Mt Wilson NSW. Avenues of Beeches, Elms and Liquidambers and Crepe Myrtles along Richmond Road
And as the leaves start to crunch underfoot and we scurry to get cosy indoors for the approaching winter, this autumn if the lockdown permits small travel, do go and do some leaf-peeping!
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
– Emily Bronte