Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Study of Aspen

Last Friday I took the kids camping, and the next morning we got up and went for a hike. It was a little chilly, so Desert Boy had to put on a hoody and was ready to walk fast.

The aspen have been beautiful this fall, although the color has been short-lived. The trees started turning the second week of September, and many leaves fell off this last week, the first week of October, as a storm system moved through.

Nevertheless, last Saturday morning we were still able to find a lot of beautiful aspens at middle elevations.

These are quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), so-named because they have flattened petioles that make them tremble in even the slightest breeze. The colorful leaves really stand out against the conifer background.

Desert Girl looked a little concerned as we began the walk, but she soon fell asleep.

The leaves are nearly circular, and a few dusted the ground.

When Desert Boy spotted a bridge, he got excited and ran across.

He ran so fast that he crashed on the other side.

I wouldn't mind having just a thimbleful of his exuberant energy.

(By the way, if you see typos that have the letter r missing, it's because Desert Girl got hold of the computer keyboard one morning. Despite repeated attempts to fix it, it's just not the same, with the letter r permanently handicapped.)

The sunlight danced across some of the leaves, illuminating their paper-thin wisps.

I liked this tree with its crooked trunk.

Aspen are fast-growing, but often don't live more than 100 or 150 years.

I noticed some elk scat near these aspen leaves. I was hoping we might see some elk or hear them bugle.

Unfortunately we didn't, but we did see some more elk sign: bark rubbed off the aspen.

This aspen leaf was nestled on the yellowing leaves of a snowberry bush.

Some of the leaves fell in the creek and were washed downstream. Cobbles slowed or stopped the movement of some of the leaves.

While most of the aspen leaves were yellow, some had orange or red tints to them. Since aspens are usually clones and are genetically exact to those around them, it's common for whole groves to turn the exact same color at the exact same time.

A problem aspen are facing is that fire suppression has allowed conifers to encroach on their habitat, crowding the aspen out of their old habitat. Trees can't exactly walk away, so if their neighbors take over, they're out of luck.

Oh my, those aspens were beautiful!

This one was particularly red.

We don't have many deciduous trees displaying fantastic fall colors, but we sure do appreciate the ones we have.

Happy autumn!

1 comment:

The Incredible Woody said...

I would dearly love to see the aspen colors! Looks like a great hike!!

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